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Stony Brook softball hopes for a repeat of last year’s postseason matchup with Delaware

Members from the Stony Brook softball team celebrate an out against Delaware on Friday, March 22. The Seawolves will butt heads with the Blue Hens in the second round of the 2024 CAA softball tournament on Thursday. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After picking up a victory in the 2024 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) softball tournament’s first round, the Stony Brook softball team will now take on one of the conference’s best in the winner’s bracket.

The third-seeded Seawolves (35-15, 19-8 CAA) will square off against the second-seeded Delaware Blue Hens (38-12, 21-6 CAA) in the second round of the playoffs in Wilmington, N.C. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at Boseman Field.

Looking at the two sides’ previous matchups this season, history does not favor Stony Brook. The Seawolves played a competitive series with the Blue Hens at University Field in March but were ultimately swept, as Delaware outscored them 16-10 in a three-game series.

However, Stony Brook is no stranger to being the underdog against the Blue Hens. Last year, the seventh-seeded Seawolves upset and eliminated top-seeded Delaware from the postseason in a 1-0 affair.

At the plate, the Blue Hens sit atop the CAA. They lead the conference in batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.376) and slugging percentage (.457). Additionally, Delaware has clobbered the third-most home runs (31) in the CAA.

The Blue Hens’ main offensive piece is designated player Sydney Shaffer, who is a member of the 2024 All-CAA Second Team. She ranks second in the CAA with a 1.038 on-base plus slugging (OPS) and fourth with a .364 batting average. Her 33 runs batted in (RBI) are tied for the sixth most in the conference and she has drawn the fourth-most walks (28). Shaffer’s 15 doubles are tied for the CAA lead and she has also belted three homers.

Third baseman Julia Boyet and first baseman Gianna Costaro have been deadly at the dish. Boyet is slashing .336 this season with a .913 OPS, helping her earn a 2024 All-CAA First Team nod. Her 32 RBIs are the eighth most in the CAA and she has blasted three home runs and scored 29 runs. Boyet has wheels, as well, as she leads the conference with five triples and stolen nine bases.

Costaro was named to the 2024 CAA All-Rookie Team and owns a .919 OPS — the sixth-highest mark in the CAA. Along with her .270 batting average, she has drawn the joint-seventh-most walks (24) in the conference. Costaro’s seven home runs are tied for the fifth most in the CAA and her 38 RBIs are tied for the third most. She leads her team in both categories and sits just behind Boyet with 28 runs scored.

Center fielder Julz Garber and two-way player Morgan Hess have also provided offensive firepower. As Delaware’s leadoff hitter, Garber is hitting .347 on the year, placing her at second on her team. Along with her stellar average, she has done her job as a table setter by stealing the eighth-most bases (16) in the conference and scoring the second-most runs (40). Garber has also hit a homer and driven in 10 runs. She is elite defensively, as Garber owns a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage through 56 chances. For her all-around efforts, she was named the 2024 CAA Defensive Player of the Year and earned an All-CAA Second Team selection for a second consecutive season.

When she is not pitching, Hess plays right field. Her two-way capabilities made her a 2024 All-CAA First Team selectee. Hess is slashing .300 this season and has posted an .862 OPS. She has notched the second-most home runs (5) on the team and 24 RBIs while her 14 two-baggers rank fourth in the CAA.

Playing in the middle of the diamond, second baseman Katie Scheivert and shortstop Chloe Blantz are dangerous. Scheivert’s .308 average is the fourth-highest mark on the Blue Hens and she has notched a .759 OPS and 24 RBIs. Her 12 steals are the second most on the squad.

Blantz can do it all in the batter’s box. She is slashing .277 with an .806 OPS. Her 11 doubles are tied for the ninth most in the CAA and she has totaled three homers. Blantz accumulated 23 RBIs and nine steals. Both Blantz and Scheivert have scored 30 runs this year.

Towards the bottom of the lineup card, catcher Maddie Fife has posted a .255 average and .735 OPS with five doubles, four home runs and 20 RBIs. Behind the plate, Fife has thrown out seven out of 37 potential base stealers (18.9%).

Light-hitting left fielder Lillie Scheivert — Katie’s sister — rounds out Delaware’s usual starting nine. She is batting .150 this season with a home run and three RBIs.

Primarily off the bench, right fielder Jenna Giattino and designated player Kristen Luzon have made the most of their opportunities. Giattino has posted a .250 average, .711 OPS, four RBIs and 12 runs scored, helping her secure a 2024 CAA All-Rookie Team selection.

Through 27 at-bats, Luzon is slashing .481 with a 1.274 OPS. She has hit two homers and totaled nine RBIs.

Opposing the Blue Hens’ well-balanced offense is a deep Stony Brook pitching staff. It currently ranks fifth in the CAA with a 3.12 earned run average (ERA) and 209 strikeouts. It also sports the fourth-lowest batting average against (.251). The Seawolves 118 walks are the fourth fewest in the league, but their 34 home runs allowed are the third most in the conference.

At the top of Stony Brook’s rotation is starting pitcher Mia Haynes. After five shutout innings against Hofstra on Wednesday, she lowered her season ERA to 2.71 — the ninth-best mark in the CAA. Haynes’ 1.30 walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) leads her team and her 132 punchouts are tied for the fourth most in the conference. She also ranks fifth in the CAA in innings pitched (155), batting average against (.224) and wins (14). However, Haynes has surrendered the seventh-most home runs (10) in the conference and issued the third-most walks (70).

Pitching behind Haynes, starting pitcher Gabrielle Maday has been solid. She has pitched to a 4.17 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP across 87 ⅓ innings. Though Maday has walked the second-fewest batters (21) in the CAA, opponents are hitting .283 off her. She has also allowed the fourth-most homers (13) in the conference and has only notched 32 strikeouts. Nonetheless, her 11 wins are tied for the ninth most in the league.

Despite working out of the bullpen, relief pitcher Ashton Melaas has arguably been the team’s best pitcher. Her 2.58 ERA leads her team and ranks eighth in the CAA. Melaas has walked just 23 batters through 76 innings of work and has racked up 43 strikeouts but has allowed nine homers. She currently possesses a 1.36 WHIP and .261 batting average against. Melaas has won 10 games this season and her four saves are the fourth most in the conference.

Though the Seawolves have been very good in the circle, Delaware sports the CAA’s premier pitching staff. The Blue Hens lead the conference with a superb 2.00 ERA and their .226 batting average against is the second lowest in the CAA. They have surrendered the fewest home runs (10) in the conference, second-fewest walks (106) and have totaled the sixth-most punchouts (203).

For the most part, Delaware consistently trots two pitchers out to the circle: Hess and starting pitcher Emily Winburn. Hess’ 2.27 ERA ranks sixth in the conference and her 123 ⅓ innings pitched are the 10th most. Hess’ 14 wins are tied with Haynes for the fifth most in the league and she has racked up 66 strikeouts. Opponents are slashing just .229 against Hess, which is the seventh-lowest mark in the CAA.

Following her stellar 2023 season that earned her CAA Pitcher of the Year and All-CAA First Team honors, Winburn rode the second-best ERA (1.54) and second-most wins (21) in the conference to a 2024 All-CAA First Team nod. Winburn has hurled the joint-most innings (186) in the CAA and is tied with Haynes for the fourth-most punchouts (132) in the conference. She has allowed just six long balls and her .208 batting average against is the second-best mark in the league. Winburn’s 1.09 WHIP slightly edges out Hess’ 1.16 for the best-mark on their team.

Luckily for Stony Brook, it has the tools to compete with the Blue Hens’ dominant one-two punch. The Seawolves rank second in the CAA in batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.427). Their 34 home runs are tied for the most in the conference and their 178 strikeouts only trail Delaware’s 172 for the fewest in the CAA.

Stony Brook’s most productive hitters have been left fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski and shortstop Kyra McFarland. Kupinski’s 1.055 OPS and 43 RBIs both lead the CAA and her eight homers are tied for the third most. The 2024 All-CAA Second Team member ranks third in the CAA with a .367 average.

McFarland — the team’s lone 2024 All-CAA First Team representative — raised her CAA-leading batting average to .396 after notching two hits on Wednesday. Along with posting an .898 OPS and driving in 20 runs, she has scored the fourth-most runs (37) in the conference, placing her just ahead of Kupinski’s 36. McFarland has also belted two homers and notched 13 steals.

Another offensive threat is right fielder Alyssa Costello. As another 2024 All-CAA Second Team selectee, she has slashed .321 with an .861 OPS. Costello has totaled 24 RBIs, two homers and her 34 runs are tied for the eighth most in the conference. She can also burn on the bases, as her three triples are tied for fourth in the CAA and she has swiped 11 bags.

Despite batting just .243, first baseman Corinne Badger has been a key run producer. Her .915 OPS is tied for eighth best in the CAA, her 31 RBIs are the ninth most and her seven home runs are tied for the fifth most. Badger has a keen eye at the plate as well, as her 23 walks are tied for the ninth most in the conference and her nine hit-by-pitches are tied for the fifth most.

Second baseman Naiah Ackerman and designated player Julianna Sanzone are consistent middle-of-the-order bats. Ackerman is slashing .293 with an .847 OPS while her five home runs are tied with Hess for the 10th most in the CAA. She has also driven in 28 runs.

Sanzone’s 30 RBIs are tied for the 10th most in the CAA and she has posted an .860 OPS with a .279 batting average. Her six homers rank joint seventh in the conference and her 21 walks are the second most on her team.

In the leadoff spot, center fielder Alicia Orosco has been rock solid. She is slashing .290 with a .726 OPS, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Orosco has also stolen eight bases, scored 31 runs and walked 17 times.

Catcher Emily Reinstein and third baseman Brooke Dye will complete the Seawolves’ starting lineup. Reinstein is hitting just .238 with five doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs but has thrown out 25% of opposing base stealers (9-for-36). Dye has posted a .141 average with three RBIs.

Third baseman Madelyn Stepski is a potential threat off the bench. Though she has racked up just five at-bats this season, Stepski has been called upon to pinch hit late in games recently, notching a hit, hit-by-pitch and two runs in her last two appearances.

Defensively, both teams have been good. Delaware’s .966 fielding percentage is the second best in the CAA while Stony Brook’s .964 clip is tied for fourth.

If the Seawolves win, they will go on to play the tournament’s host team — fourth-seeded University of North Carolina Wilmington — on Friday at noon. If they fall short, they will take on sixth-seeded Hofstra in a win-or-go-home rematch at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

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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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