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Stony Brook baseball looks to rebound against Elon

Head coach Matt Senk (left) talks to his infield during a pitching change against Charleston on Saturday, March 30. Senk and the Stony Brook baseball team will host Elon this weekend for a three-game series. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

With its conference season off to a rough start, the Stony Brook baseball team will conclude its eight-game homestand by welcoming a familiar face for a crucial conference series.

The Seawolves (12-15, 1-5 CAA) will host the Elon Phoenix (11-16, 1-5 CAA) for a three-game series at Joe Nathan Field this weekend. The first pitch is set for 2 p.m. on Friday, with Saturday’s game penciled in for 1 p.m. and the series finale on Sunday slated for noon.

Stony Brook’s pitching has been feast or famine through the first couple of months of the season. Its struggles to find consistency on the mound have led to an inflated 5.84 earned run average (ERA), which ranks seventh in the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA). The staff will enter the weekend well-rested after their midweek tune-up against Sacred Heart was postponed.

Heading the rotation is starting pitcher Eddie Smink, who got knocked around in his last start, handing him an inflated 4.29 ERA. Nonetheless, he leads the staff with 43 strikeouts and has held hitters to a .257 batting average over 35 ⅓ innings. Left-handed starting pitcher Nick Rizzo figures to get the start in game two, as he leads the team with 39 innings pitched. He enters the weekend with a 4.38 ERA while owning a .280 batting average against.

Rounding out the starting rotation is starting pitcher J.T. Raab, who has seen moments of success while working as both a starter and out of the bullpen. On the year, the junior holds a 4.22 ERA while striking out 6.5 batters per nine innings.

Left-handed relief pitcher Erik Paulsen has been a huge asset for head coach Matt Senk. In 23 innings pitched, the southpaw has pitched to a 1.96 ERA while tallying two saves.

The Seawolves staff will have their work cut out for them this weekend, as Elon possesses a strong lineup.

The offense runs through the leadoff spot in left fielder Kenny Mallory Jr., who ranks fifth in the CAA in batting average (.390) and on-base percentage (.508). Mallory Jr. has also collected 39 hits this season, which leads the team and is tied for sixth in the conference. He poses a unique combination of power and speed with three home runs and five stolen bases.

Right fielder Charlie Granatell has been a major player for the Phoenix out of the two-hole — hitting .324. He has also slugged three long balls and driven in 25 runs. The junior is close behind Mallory Jr. in hits with 36. 

Hitting in the three-spot is first baseman Ryan Sprock. His four home runs place him in a four-way tie for the team lead. Alongside the power, Sprock is batting .311 and leads Elon with 29 runs batted in (RBI).

Third baseman Connor Offshack also poses a major power threat. He has slugged four bombs while driving in the second-most runs on the team with 26. Power aside, second baseman Will Vergantino has been an important piece in the middle of the Phoenix’s batting order, hitting .327. 

Catcher Alex Duffey has had a strong season, as he has slugged four home runs while hitting .287. He has also tallied 25 hits and 18 RBIs.

The weekend will serve as a homecoming of sorts for catcher Shane Paradine — who spent the last four seasons with Stony Brook. Paradine has excelled in a part time role as a designated hitter, hitting .296 entering the series. The graduate student has chipped in a pair of home runs and 12 RBIs.

On the other hand, the Seawolves’ offense has experienced peaks and valleys at points this season, with more valleys in recent weeks. They rank dead-last in the CAA with a .250 team batting average and second-to-last with 12 home runs.

Despite Stony Brook’s struggles with the bat, left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring has compiled a stellar senior year. On the season, he is batting .368 and slugging .585. His 39 hits are tied for sixth in the CAA while his three home runs co-lead the team.

Center fielder Cam Santerre has burst onto the scene, making his presence felt in multiple facets of the game. He has established himself as an important table-setter with a .460 on-base percentage. Santerre is also tied for third in the conference with three triples while hitting .288.

As a two-way player who also plays first base, Erik Paulsen has been lethal from the left-handed batters box in his freshman year. He is second on the team with a .315 batting average and 14 RBIs. Paulsen sits alongside Brown-Eiring atop the team charts with three homers.

Second baseman Evan Fox has been hot since coming back from injury, and he has also moved positions. After moving to center field to accommodate rising second baseman Johnny Pilla, Fox converted to third base on Sunday against Charleston after third baseman Evan Goforth continued to struggle on both sides of the ball. From the top of the lineup, Fox has tallied five hits in 14 at bats since returning to the lineup on Friday. On the year, the senior is hitting .263 with a home run and nine RBIs.

Stony Brook is awaiting the breakout of first baseman Brett Paulsen, who has hit just .237. The graduate student has drawn 14 walks and driven in eight runs. Shortstop Matt Miceli has struggled overall, as he is hitting just .242 but is third on Stony Brook with 13 RBIs.

Pilla has forced himself into the starting lineup with a .271 batting average, five doubles and two home runs. Similarly, right fielder Matty Wright enters the series scalding hot after a four-hit day on Saturday. For the year, Wright holds a .333 average and two doubles.

The Seawolves emphasize the running game with the fourth-most stolen bases in the conference at 45. Fox leads the way with nine steals in as many tries, which is tied for eighth in the CAA. Brown-Eiring and Santerre have each swiped seven while Miceli picks up the rear with sixth.

While it has struggled to hit in recent weeks, Stony Brook will have a nice matchup, as the pitching staff is certainly the Phoenix’s weak link. 

Aside from right-handed starting pitcher Justin Mitrovich, the team’s starters have been pedestrian. Mitrovich leads Elon with 42 ⅓ innings pitched while holding an ERA of 3.64. He has been extremely tough on opposing hitters with a .217 average while leading the league with 57 strikeouts.

The Phoenix’s second option is starting pitcher Ben Sieracki, who has been far less dominant than the aforementioned ace. While Sieracki has shown signs of greatness, inconsistent play has left him with a 5.30 ERA over 35 ⅔ innings. He has struck out 31 hitters while walking 16.

Sprock has contributed on the mound as well as at the plate, starting each of the last four Sundays for Elon while not enjoying much success. In 18 innings pitched this year, Sprock has struggled to the tune of a 9.00 ERA. 

Relief pitcher Sam Nomura has been a popular name called by head coach Mike Kennedy. Despite co-leading the team with 13 appearances, Nomura owns a 7.79 ERA.

The Seawolves cannot afford to suffer the same fate as they did last weekend, or else things will get late for them early. Last year, Stony Brook’s first CAA series win came over the Phoenix, and it is hoping that history will repeat itself this time around.

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