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Stony Brook softball to host first-place Delaware

Catcher Emily Reinstein (center) celebrates a home run on Friday, March 8. Reinstein is looking to stay hot in the Stony Brook softball team’s series against Delaware. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

With its offense finally clicking, the Stony Brook softball team will get its toughest Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) opposition thus far.

Coming off their best weekend of the season, the Seawolves (13-9, 3-3 CAA) are set to do battle with the Delaware Blue Hens (18-7, 5-1 CAA) this weekend. Each of the three games this weekend are scheduled for 1 p.m. at University Field.

It will be a tall task for Stony Brook’s pitching staff to keep Delaware’s bats at bay, as it possesses one of the strongest offenses in the CAA.

The Blue Hens are nothing short of an offensive juggernaut, as they lead the CAA in batting average by over 60 points. They lead the conference in hits (212), runs (146), doubles (49) and home runs (18) over the first six weeks of play.

Delaware’s offense is spearheaded by a couple of youngsters in sophomore catcher Sydney Shaffer and freshman first baseman Gianna Costaro. Doing much of her work from the three-hole, Shaffer has established herself as one of the conference’s most dangerous bats, sitting atop in the conference with her .400 batting average. Her 1.098 on-base plus slugging ranks second in the CAA.

Batting behind her is Costaro, who has lit up the league over her first month of college softball, evidenced by her back-to-back CAA Rookie of the Week awards. The freshman is currently first in the conference with seven home runs and a 1.318 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Costaro’s 27 runs batted in (RBI) are second most in the conference.

The Blue Hens best table setter is center fielder Julz Garber. She is off to a great start this year with a CAA-leading 32 hits. Her .376 batting average and 22 runs scored both place inside the conference’s top 10. She is also a threat on the basepaths, as she is 5-for-6 on stolen base attempts. Helping Garber at the top of the order is shortstop Chloe Blantz, who has gotten off to a fast start with a .342 batting average. She also uses the gaps often, as her nine doubles rank second in the conference. She is ninth in the league with a .931 OPS.

Right fielder Morgan Hess has produced in bunches for Delaware with a .338 average and .940 OPS. Her 26 hits are tied for fifth on the team.

The Seawolves will look to their big three on the pitching staff to hold down the Blue Hens’ powerful lineup. Headlining the rotation are starting pitchers Mia Haynes and Gabrielle Maday.

After struggling to open the season, Haynes has given up three runs or less in seven of her last eight outings. The aforementioned rough start ballooned her earned run average (ERA) to 4.17, but her 52 innings pitched lead the squad. Closely behind Haynes is Maday — the left-hander — who has given head coach Megan Bryant consistency in the rotation. Her 4.14 ERA is inflated by a nine-run thumping against Nevada on February 23rd, but has allowed more than three runs just once since.

The wild card on Stony Brook’s staff is Ashton Melaas: a versatile righty who gets action as a starter and a reliever. Melaas has thrown better than anybody Bryant has used this year, as she has pitched to a 3.59 ERA in 39 innings. She has also notched a pair of saves.

On the other side of the ball, the Seawolves seem to have broken out of their season-long offensive slump with 36 runs over their last five contests. They have jumped into a tie for second in the CAA with their 14 home runs.

Leading the charge in left fielder Catherine Anne Kupinski, who is off to a fast start in her senior season. Her 1.072 OPS is fifth in the CAA while her four home runs put her in a tie for fourth place. Kupinski’s 15 RBIs lead Stony Brook while her .359 average is slightly edged out by shortstop Kyra McFarland’s .366 for the team lead. McFarland’s 26 hits are 10th in the conference.

The Seawolves’ biggest power threat is catcher Corinne Badger. Despite hitting just .171, Badger’s good plate discipline has led to a .375 on-base percentage. When coupled with her four home runs, Badger has accumulated a .946 OPS which is second on the squad and 10th in the league. 

Right fielder Alyssa Costello and corner outfielder Julianna Sanzone — who is often used as a designated player — have also been major producers for the Seawolves.

In addition to a trio of long balls, Sanzone has driven in 12 runs, which places her second on the team. Costello — the reigning CAA batting champion — is yet to live up to her own lofty expectations thus far, but she co-leads the team with four doubles. Costello has also chipped in two triples, which is tied with Kupinski for the most on the squad.

The hero of last weekend’s sweep was catcher Emily Reinstein. After a big week, the junior has raised her average to .283. Despite the high batting average, she has only drawn one walk this season, leading to a pedestrian .290 on-base percentage.

An offensive X-factor for Stony Brook is centerfielder Alicia Orosco. After hitting .346 a season ago, Orosco is just 14-for-61 (.230) so far this year with only one extra base hit — albeit a home run. However, she has eight hits in her last 24 at-bats and her four stolen bases co-lead the team alongside McFarland.

The Seawolves’ offense will have their work cut out for them, as Delaware’s dominance extends into the pitching circle. The Blue Hens’ 2.88 team ERA is the third-best mark in the conference. They have been extremely stingy across the board, as their .242 batting average against is also third in the CAA while they have issued the fourth-fewest walks of any team with just 62.

Delaware has leaned on two pitchers for 150 ⅔ of its 163 total innings this year. Heading the rotation is starting pitcher Emily Winburn, who is the winningest pitcher in the conference with 11 victories. She has been a workhorse for the Blue Hens with 82 innings, which is the second most in the league. The graduate student has given her team quality in those innings with a 2.48 ERA, which is good for fourth in the conference. Her 68 strikeouts are the third most of any CAA pitcher.

Behind her in the rotation is Hess, who extends her dominance from the batters box into the circle. Her 2.65 ERA ranks seventh and her 68 ⅔ innings pitched is the sixth-highest figure in the conference.

With a tall task ahead of it, Stony Brook will look to continue its hot streak early in conference play.

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