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Stony Brook baseball looks to continue strong homestand against Charleston

The Stony Brook baseball team watches the Fordham game from the dugout on Wednesday, March 27. The Seawolves will host Charleston for a three-game series this weekend. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After delivering a pair of midweek routs, the Stony Brook baseball team is set to clash with a conference heavyweight.

The Seawolves (12-12, 1-2 CAA) will welcome the Charleston Cougars (14-9, 1-2 CAA) to Joe Nathan Field this weekend for a three-game series. The set will kick off on Friday with a 2 p.m. first pitch, followed by a pair of noon games to close it out.

Last year, the two teams opened conference action against one another down in North Carolina, with Charleston taking the first two games before Stony Brook salvaged the series.

The weekend will be a battle on the mound, as both teams have relied on arms to compensate for lackluster offenses. The Cougars hold the upper hand, as their 3.53 team earned run average (ERA) tops the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA).

Their weekend rotation has been spectacular, as their three highest-volume arms have pitched to a combined 2.92 ERA this year. Starting pitcher Jake Brink is their ace, and he leads the conference with 39 innings. Across those frames, Brink has pitched to a 2.08 ERA, which is good for fourth in the league. He has been stingy, as his .209 batting average against ranks sixth in the league.

Behind Brink, left-handed starting pitcher Connor Campbell has totaled 31 ⅓ innings on the year and owns a 3.73 ERA. Rounding out the rotation is right-handed starting pitcher Aidan Hunter, who has pitched to a 3.21 ERA in 28 innings.

Out of the bullpen, Charleston leans on relief pitchers Emmett Bice and Alex Lyon along with left-handed relief pitcher Thomas Hayden. Bice has struggled to a 5.21 ERA, but he leads the team with 28 strikeouts over 19 innings. Lyon has fared slightly better with a 4.34 ERA in 18 innings and has held opposing hitters to just a .250 batting average. Hayden, who serves as the main southpaw in the Cougars’ bullpen, has sparkled to a 3.52 ERA across 15 ⅓ frames.

They will look to feast on a lineup that has struggled for most of the year. Despite scoring 34 runs over their last three games, the Seawolves’ 5.6 runs per game are the second fewest in the CAA.

Stony Brook hopes to have speedy utility player Evan Fox back at the top of the lineup after missing the last six games with a dislocated shoulder and a partially torn left labrum. 

Head coach Matt Senk is hopeful that Fox will make his return this weekend following a successful week of rehabilitation.

“Evan is doing really well,” Senk said in an interview with The Statesman. “He’s comfortable with the brace he has on and we’re optimistic that he has a chance to be in the lineup Friday.”

Before going down on March 17 in a loss to Seton Hall, Fox reached base at a .350 clip out of the leadoff spot while stealing a team-leading eight bases in as many tries.

His replacement up top has been first baseman Erik Paulsen: a freshman two-way player who is batting .333 with a team-leading three home runs. His six doubles are second on the team and his 14 runs batted in (RBI) rank second on the team.

The Seawolves’ biggest offensive threat is left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring, who leads them in batting average (.366), hits (34), doubles (9) and RBIs (17). His 34 hits put him in a four-way tie for eighth in the CAA.

In the absence of Fox, center fielder Cam Santerre has been a sparkplug in their batting order. Santerre’s .463 on-base percentage leads the team while his .290 average places third. His 24 runs scored is eight higher than Brown-Eiring’s 16 for the team’s top spot.

First baseman Brett Paulsen had his 10-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday against Iona, but he still provides consistency with a .263 batting average.

Doing most of his work out of the eighth and ninth spots in the order, shortstop Matt Miceli has produced for Senk’s bunch. His 20 hits and 13 RBIs are third and fourth on the team, respectively. He has also swiped five bags in seven tries.

Though Charleston ranks rather low on the CAA’s offensive leaderboards, it still ranks fourth with a .394 on-base percentage. The Cougars are averaging 6.5 runs per game. 

Charleston’s offense is set up by right fielder Will Baumhofer, as he is hitting .344 and has stolen five bases without being caught. Left fielder Avery Neaves has been the Cougars’ best bat this year, as he leads them with a .347 batting average, 12 doubles, 18 walks and an 1.172 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Additionally, he has slugged four home runs and collected 13 RBIs.

Corner infielder Cole Singsank has been the team’s primary designated hitter and has given opposing pitchers some thunder to deal with in the middle of the lineup. His six home runs lead the team, and he is reaching base at a .434 clip. First baseman Trotter Harlan is their everyday two-hole hitter and leads them with 19 RBIs despite hitting just .256. Catcher Dylan Johnson has hit .299 while third baseman Kevin Madden has batted .289 this season to help lengthen their batting order.

Charleston will face off against a formidable big three in Stony Brook’s rotation. Starting pitchers Eddie Smink, Nick Rizzo and J.T. Raab have pitched to a combined 3.17 ERA this year.

Smink is the ace of the staff, posting the best ERA at 3.03. Across 32 ⅔ innings, the flame-throwing right-hander has struck out 40 batters while holding them to a .225 batting average.

While Smink will get the ball in the series opener, Rizzo is more than capable of being an ace in his own right, leading Stony Brook innings pitched. Despite a rough start to his season, Rizzo has settled down to the tune of a 3.19 ERA in 36 ⅔ innings. Strikeouts are not a major part of the freshman’s game, as he has only punched out 19 hitters this year.

The final piece of the rotation is Raab, who has excelled since being moved out of the bullpen. In 27 innings overall, the righty has posted a 3.33 ERA while posting the best walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) on the team at 1.22.

Senk’s is short-handed once his starter departs, as the bullpen is still being figured out. Erik Paulsen — who is also a left-handed relief pitcher — has been dominant out of the bullpen with a 1.89 ERA over 19 innings.

Outside of Paulsen, right-handed relief pitchers Ty Saunders, Colin Rhein, Ty Panariello and Ty Stout as well as lefties Colton Book and Jerek Hobb have seen success in small spurts, but have struggled overall.

Saunders leads them with 24 ⅓ innings pitched, but has done so to an 8.14 ERA. Rhein just threw 98 pitches on Tuesday, so he will likely not be available until Sunday, but he has struggled to a 7.79 ERA over 17 ⅓ frames anyway. Book owns a 10.50 ERA. Panariello, Stout and Hobb all own ERAs over 8.00.

After dropping their opening CAA series last weekend, the Seawolves will need to try to flip the script this time around before history repeats itself.

Anthony DiCocco also contributed reporting.

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