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Stony Brook softball kicks off 2024 CAA softball tournament with playoff edition of the Battle of Long Island

Players from the Stony Brook softball team huddle together in between innings against Elon on Friday, April 26. The Seawolves will square off against Hofstra on Wednesday in the first round of the 2024 CAA softball tournament. ANGELINA LIVIGNI/THE STATESMAN

With the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) softball tournament underway, the Stony Brook softball team will begin its postseason with a first-round matchup against its crosstown rival.

On Wednesday, the third-seeded Seawolves (34-15, 19-8 CAA) will start their playoff journey when they take on the sixth-seeded Hofstra Pride (21-24, 17-10 CAA) at Boseman Field in Wilmington, N.C. — the tournament’s host site. First pitch is set for 2:30 p.m.

After being defeated twice and ultimately eliminated by Hofstra during last year’s tournament, Stony Brook are well-positioned to exorcise its demons and conquer the Pride in this postseason’s edition of the Battle of Long Island. Doing a 180 from last season, the Seawolves got the best of Hofstra in all of their meetings this year, sweeping and outscoring it 14-6 during a three-game series back in April.

Since the two sides sport identical 3.19 team earned run averages (ERA) that place them in a tie with for the fourth-best mark in the CAA, Stony Brook’s dangerous offense has potential to be the X factor in this matchup. It currently ranks second in the conference in all major statistical categories, including team batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.429) and home runs (33).

At the forefront of the Seawolves’ batting order is left fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski. Prior to the start of this season, the senior made it clear that she wanted to have her best year yet and Kupinski has done just that, finishing the regular season with a conference-leading 1.068 on-base plus slugging (OPS) to earn a 2024 All-CAA Second Team nod. Kupinski also leads the CAA with 43 runs batted in (RBI), owns the second-best batting average in the conference (.372) and is tied for the third-most home runs (eight).

Patrolling the outfield alongside Kupinski are center fielder Alicia Orosco and right fielder Alyssa Costello. Serving as the team’s leadoff hitter, Orosco has slashed .296 this season with a .739 OPS. She has scored the fourth-most runs (31) on the team, drawn the third-most walks (17) and stolen the third-most bases (eight). Orosco has also blasted two home runs this season and recorded 17 RBIs despite being known as a table setter.

Though she lost her batting-title crown this season, Costello still possesses elite bat-to-ball skills, as she rode a .326 batting average and .873 OPS to a 2024 All-CAA Second Team selection. In terms of power, Costello has had a down year but turned things around recently, as both of her two home runs on the season came within her final six games. She is tied for fourth in the CAA with three triples and has racked up 24 RBIs as well. On the base path, Costello has gone 11-for-11 when swiping bags this year.

Batting second, shortstop Kyra McFarland has hit for a .392 average this season to edge out Kupinski as the CAA’s batting champion and become her team’s only 2024 All-CAA First Team honoree. Acting as another table setter, McFarland leads Stony Brook with 13 steals and her 36 runs scored are tied with Kupinski for the fourth most in the conference. She has also belted two homers, driven in 19 runs and posted an .890 OPS.

In the middle of the order, first baseman Corinne Badger, designated player Julianna Sanzone and second baseman Naiah Ackerman have strived at driving in runs. In the cleanup spot, Badger is slashing just .241 but owns the third-best on-base percentage (.411) on her team, as she has drawn the ninth-most walks (23) in the CAA and is tied for the fifth-most hit-by-pitches (nine). Badger’s six home runs are tied for the sixth most in the conference and her 30 RBIs are tied for ninth. She has also recorded an .892 OPS, which is the second-highest mark on her team.

Sanzone is hitting .278 this season with an .864 OPS and, like Badger, has blasted six homers. Her 21 walks are the second most on the Seawolves and her 29 RBIs rank third. Ackerman owns a slightly better .867 OPS on a .300 batting average. Her five home runs are tied for the 10th most in the conference and she sits narrowly behind Badger and Sanzone with 28 RBIs.

Behind the plate, catcher Emily Reinstein is batting .242 with five doubles, two long balls and 12 RBIs. Though she has struggled at the dish, Reinstein has not taken her offensive woes into the field, as she has gunned down nine out of the 36 base stealers she has encountered (25%).

Third baseman Brooke Dye will likely round out the lineup. She is slashing just .131 with three RBIs. If head coach Megan Bryant strays away from Dye, second baseman Sofia Chambers will likely get the nod, prompting McFarland and Ackerman to slide over to third base and shortstop, respectively. Through 34 games (24 starts) this season, Chambers is hitting .224 with three doubles, a triple and three RBIs.

Opposing Stony Brook’s potent offense is a top-heavy Pride pitching staff. Along with its aforementioned stellar ERA, Hofstra has allowed the second-fewest home runs (12) in the CAA, walked the third-fewest batters (108) and struck out the fourth most (205). It has also held opposing hitters to a .275 batting average — the fifth-lowest rate in the conference.

At the top of the Pride’s rotation is ace starting pitcher Julia Apsel, who was also named to the 2024 All-CAA Second Team. Apsel has made 27 starts this season, pitching to a conference-leading 1.48 ERA and hurling the third-most complete games (17) in the CAA. Her 152 strikeouts are also the third most in the conference and she has allowed just two home runs through 175 innings pitched this year. Apsel owns a 1.06 walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and her .227 batting average against is the sixth-lowest mark in the league. Back in April, Apsel tossed a perfect game against Hampton.

However, there is not much else behind Apsel. Pitcher Annabella Pisapia has mostly been used as a reliever, posting the second-best ERA (4.67) and WHIP (1.83) on her team with a .292 batting average against. Pitcher Marisa Ogden’s eight starts are the second most on Hofstra, but she has pitched to a 5.49 ERA, 2.15 WHIP and opponents are hitting .377 off her.

Relief pitcher Haley Venturini sports a 6.85 ERA and 2.22 WHIP with a .297 batting average against. Relief pitcher Anna Butler owns a 7.60 ERA, 2.17 WHIP and opponents are slashing .345 against her.

Mirroring the Pride, the Seawolves sit just behind them at fifth in the CAA with 204 strikeouts to go with their 3.19 ERA. They have also allowed the fourth-fewest walks (115) this season. Stony Brook’s team .253 batting average against is the fourth-lowest rate in the conference. However, it has surrendered the third-most home runs (34) in the CAA.

Though no singular Seawolf has pitched at Apsel’s level, their pitching staff features more depth. Headlining the group is starting pitcher Mia Haynes, whose 2.80 ERA is the ninth best in the CAA. She owns a team-leading 1.31 WHIP, as well. Haynes has been the team’s workhorse, making a team-leading 25 starts and accumulating the fifth-most innings pitched (150) in the conference. Her .226 batting average against is the fifth-best mark in the league and her 129 punchouts are the sixth most. However, she has been susceptible to the long ball, as she has allowed the seventh most (10) in the CAA.

As the team’s number two, starting pitcher Gabrielle Maday has had an inconsistent season. The southpaw has posted a 4.17 ERA and a .283 batting average against with just 32 strikeouts through 87 ⅓ innings of work. However, her 21 walks are the third fewest in the CAA, bringing her WHIP down to 1.40. Like Haynes, Maday has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, as she has been taken deep 13 times this season.

Used primarily out of the bullpen, relief pitcher Ashton Melaas has excelled. Her 2.65 ERA ranks eighth in the conference. Opposing hitters are batting .264 off her but, like Maday, Melaas has issued minimal free passes (23), giving her a 1.38 WHIP. Melaas’ three saves are tied for the second most in the CAA and she has struck out 41 batters in 74 innings pitched but has given up nine homers.

Stony Brook’s pitching staff will be contested by a struggling Hofstra offense. The Pride are batting just .242 this season, which is the second-lowest average in the CAA. Their .330 slugging percentage is the third-worst mark in the league and their .318 on-base percentage is the fourth worst. They have also crushed just 16 home runs this year.

Hofstra’s best offensive performer is 2024 All-CAA First Team catcher Becca Vaillancourt. Her .369 batting average ranks third in the CAA and her 1.055 OPS only trails Kupinski in the conference. Vaillancourt’s nine home runs are the second most in the CAA and she ranks ninth in both doubles (11) and RBIs (30). Behind the plate, she has thrown out nine of 28 potential base stealers (32.1%).

Center fielder Chelsea Manto and designated player Olivia Malinowski have also been threats. Manto is slashing .310 with nine RBIs, a team-leading 24 runs and her 18 steals are tied for the fourth most in the CAA.

Malinowski — another 2024 All-CAA Second Team selectee — is batting .269 with a .713 OPS, two homers and eight doubles. Her 21 RBIs are the second most on the team.

In the leadoff spot, left fielder Kayla Wilson has slashed .250. Her .783 OPS is largely in part due to her .431 on-base percentage, which ranks eighth in the CAA. She has also scored 14 runs and driven in nine.

First baseman Aliya Catanzarita has supplied some power, notching three homers, nine doubles and a triple. She has also racked up 19 RBIs while posting a .792 OPS and .421 slugging percentage.

Right fielder Chelsea Villar and third baseman Mackenzie Fitzgerald have struggled. Villar is hitting .217 with a homer and 11 RBIs while Fitzgerald is slashing .172 with five RBIs.

Double-play partners shortstop Alanna Morse and second baseman Nicole Cancel have not provided much offensively. Morse is batting .198 with 11 RBIs while Cancel is hitting .087.

Primarily as a pinch hitter, right fielder Lily Yepez is batting .230 with two RBIs and six steals.

Defensively, the Seawolves and Pride are rock solid. Stony Brook owns the fourth-best fielding percentage (.965) in the CAA and Hofstra sits just behind it with a .963 clip.

If the Seawolves are victorious, they will advance to play second-seeded Delaware on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. With a loss, Wednesday will turn into a doubleheader for Stony Brook, as it will take on the loser of the Elon-University of North Carolina Wilmington contest in an elimination game at 5 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Anthony DiCocco
Anthony DiCocco, Assistant Sports Editor
Anthony DiCocco is an Assistant Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports derives from years of playing dek hockey and watching his favorite teams, the New York Islanders, New York Mets and New York Jets. He is the beat reporter for Stony Brook’s hockey and softball teams. He has also covered football, baseball, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief of his high school newspaper the Devil’s Tale at Plainedge High School. He is a local product from North Massapequa, N.Y.
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