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Stony Brook baseball turns season around with convincing sweep over Elon

Right fielder Chris Carson (foreground) runs to first base while left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring (background) scores against Elon on Saturday, April 6. Carson hit his first career home run during this series while Brown-Eiring went 6-for-13 with a grand slam. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

With its season on the verge of slipping away, the Stony Brook baseball team flipped the script from last weekend with a triumphant sweep.

After having their midweek game rained out, the Seawolves (15-15, 4-5 CAA) rebounded from a week ago by outclassing the Elon Phoenix (11-20, 1-8 CAA) in a three-game series at Joe Nathan Field. Stony Brook’s offense was firing on all cylinders — leading to victories on Friday and Saturday of 18-2 and 9-1, respectively. Sunday’s matchup was much closer, as it secured the sweep with a 6-3 win.

The Seawolves got off to a good start on Friday, with starting pitcher Eddie Smink getting some help from his defense. Batting with one out in the top of the first, Elon right fielder Charlie Granatell tested Nathan’s confines with a long fly ball to right field. With the wind helping it carry, right fielder Matty Wright tracked it to the fence before leaping to reel it in against the wall.

Over the next two innings, regular right fielder Chris Carson — who started in center field for Stony Brook — went back on a pair of balls hit to the warning track and flagged them down. Behind the stout defense, Smink retired his first nine batters and had a no-hitter working through his first 5 ⅔ innings.

Smink cited his team’s effort in the field as a major factor in his success.

“The defense played really well behind me,” Smink said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “That really helps a pitcher’s confidence because you feel confident in attacking the strike zone when they’re making plays behind you.”

The Seawolves’ bats drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning against starting pitcher Justin Mitrovich after Carson got things going with a one-out bunt single. After advancing to third base on a single by shortstop Matt Miceli, Carson scored on a fielder’s choice by Wright, who beat a relay throw on a potential double play.

With Smink still cruising along, Stony Brook put the game away for good in the bottom of the fifth inning. Following singles from Wright and catcher Ryan Micheli, now-third baseman Evan Fox laced a double down the left-field line to bring in a run. Later in the inning, with two outs and two runners on, first baseman Brett Paulsen singled down the right-field line to bring in Micheli and Fox.

Carson followed by jumping on a first-pitch curveball and golfing it off the scoreboard in right field for his first career home run, ballooning the Seawolves’ lead to 7-0. He was elated after his milestone.

“It was a good feeling,” Carson said. “Off the bat, I kind of knew. All in all, it was just a good feeling to help the team out, especially with two outs.”

A sacrifice fly by second baseman Johnny Pilla brought home another run in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it 8-0.

To start the seventh inning, relief pitcher Colin Rhein replaced Smink after 81 pitches. Smink allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three hitters over six innings. Rhein went on to finish the final three innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on three hits with three strikeouts and one walk. His three-inning performance garnered him his first career save.

As if eight runs was not a big enough cushion for Rhein to sit on, Stony Brook’s offense continued the shellacking by scoring 10 runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. After a run-scoring triple by Micheli and a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Erik Paulsen, Brett Paulsen walked to load the bases with two outs. Carson drew a second consecutive walk to drive in the first of eight two-out runs.

With the bags still juiced, Miceli unloaded them by hooking a three-run double into the left-field corner to make it 14-0. An infield single by Wright and a walk by Micheli reloaded the bases once more, allowing third baseman Joe DeLanzo to cap off the inning in grand style. While pinch hitting, DeLanzo jumped on a 1-1 fastball and blasted it over the wall in right-center field for his first career home run.

With DeLanzo’s at-bats being few and far between this year, the pinch-hit grand slam was worth the wait for DeLanzo.

“It’s honestly the greatest feeling in the world,” DeLanzo said. “I was ready for my opportunity, got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it … just happy for the boys and how hype they all got.”

Saturday’s matinee was much of the same, with starting pitchers Nick Rizzo and Ben Sieracki opposing each other and matching with a scoreless first three frames.

After Rizzo hurled a scoreless top of the fourth inning, the Seawolves broke through in the fourth. Wright grounded out with Carson on third base and just one out to drive in the game’s first run. After Micheli struck out, Fox ripped Sieracki’s fastball through the middle to score a pair and make it 3-0.

From there, Rizzo went back to work, notching a perfect top of the fifth inning before getting into a jam in the sixth. With the bases loaded and only one away, Rizzo got second baseman Will Vergantino to fly out to right, allowing Granatell to trot home with the Phoenix’s first run. Head coach Matt Senk then made the move to the bullpen, bringing in Erik Paulsen with a jam to get out of.

The freshman standout handled the assignment with ease, getting Elon shortstop Justin Szestowicki to bounce out on the first pitch. The groundout closed the book on Rizzo, who allowed just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out three over 5 ⅔ innings.

The Phoenix ran into more trouble in the bottom of the sixth inning when relief pitcher Sam Nomura loaded the bases with only one out. He caught second baseman Johnny Pilla looking at a controversial strike three on the outside corner, leaving it in the hands of left fielder Matt Brown-Eiring.

Now on the precipice of escaping the jam, Brown-Eiring refused to leave it in the discretion of the home plate umpire. Looking for a first pitch heater, Brown-Eiring jumped on Nomura’s first offering and launched it over the bullpen in right field to make it 7-1.

Brown-Eiring talked about his fastball-centered approach before the grand slam.

“I was looking dead-red,” Brown-Eiring said. “I got a pitch middle-away and just hammered it.”

After Erik Paulsen retired six of the next seven batters on the mound, Brown-Eiring was once again involved in a scoring spree when Stony Brook added a pair in the eighth. Pilla blasted a double to the base of the wall in left-center field to drive in Micheli. From there, Brown-Eiring pulled a pitch down the left-field line for another two-bagger and run batted in (RBI).

Now with a 9-1 advantage, Erik Paulsen worked around a one-out hit in the top of the ninth inning to secure the series victory and a 10-out save. Paulsen stranded two hits and struck out one batter over 3 ⅓ scoreless innings.

Senk commented on the team’s balanced offensive attack after scoring 27 runs through the first two games.

“That’s the kind of balance you hope you’ll get,” Senk said. “One day, if it’s not one part of the order, the next day it’s a different part of the order … it’s great to see guys really doing this as a team.”

The offensive versatility was on full display on Sunday, as five different Seawolves recorded multiple hits. Despite this, the story early on was starting pitcher J.T. Raab. 

Raab started his afternoon with six strikeouts over the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Elon first baseman Connor Offshack sat back on a Raab breaking ball and blasted it onto Circle Road to give his side its first lead of the series.

The advantage was short-lived, as the Stony Brook offense went to work in the bottom of the fifth inning. With Miceli just 90 feet away after a leadoff double and an advancement on a flyout, Micheli banged one back through the middle to tie it.

After a walk to Fox and a single by Pilla, Brown-Eiring came up with the bases loaded again. Looking to come through, Brown-Eiring chopped a ball to second base. Szestowicki — now playing second base — fielded the chance and attempted to tag Pilla, but he lowered his shoulder and knocked the ball loose. With the ball on the turf, Micheli and Fox both scored to give the Seawolves a 3-1 lead.

With the Phoenix now trailing, head coach Mike Kennedy called on left-handed relief pitcher Liam Dabagian to limit the damage. However, the southpaw poured fuel on the fire by allowing a hit to Erik Paulsen before handing Brett Paulsen a free pass to force in another run.

Now with some run support behind him, Raab finished off his day with an easy top of the sixth inning before the offense once again struck in the home half of the frame. Fox shot one up the left-center field gap to bring home Micheli and make it 5-1.

With Raab’s pitch count over 90, Senk made the move to relief pitcher Brendan Pattermann to start the seventh inning. Raab sparkled, allowing just one run on five hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.

Pattermann immediately put himself in trouble by hitting Szestowicki before walking center fielder Tank Yaghoubi with one out. After getting a flyout from left fielder Kenny Mallory Jr., Pattermann surrendered a two-out, two-run double to catcher Alex Duffey to cut Stony Brook’s lead to 5-3.

Now looking to add insurance, the Paulsen duo started the bottom of the seventh inning with consecutive base hits. With runners on the corners, Miceli topped one to shortstop and beat the throw to first, allowing him to reach base safely and drive in a run.

Now with an extra run to work with, Pattermann went back to the rubber and worked around a one-out double in the top of the eighth inning before hurling an effortless ninth to seal the sweep and lock down his first save of the year. Pattermann surrendered two runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batsman over three innings.

While the offensive output on Sunday was not what it was in the first two games of the series, Senk was happy to see his team come through with clutch at-bats.

“The timely hits are a huge part of being able to win games,” Senk said. “It’s hard to find anything bad about this weekend, especially including the timely, two-out hits that we had.”

Brown-Eiring was the Seawolves’ biggest contributor at the plate this weekend, going 6-for-13 with a double, a home run, six runs batted in (RBI), three runs scored and two walks.

From the bottom of the order, Miceli was crucial for the offense, as he went 7-for-11 with two doubles, four RBIs and three runs.

Miceli credited his recent offensive success to a straightforward approach at the plate.

“I’m just trying to simplify everything,” Miceli said. “Just stay in the middle of the field and try to hit the ball hard.”

Fox had another big weekend out of the leadoff spot. He notched five hits in 12 at-bats while driving in four runs, scoring two and tallying a pair of doubles. He also drew three walks and stole a base.

Brett Paulsen finished 4-for-10 with three RBIs, three runs and four walks. Micheli was also integral from the bottom of the order, as he went 5-for-10 with a triple, a walk, two hit-by-pitches, two RBIs and a team-leading seven runs scored. Wright was also productive from the bottom of the order, going 4-for-12 in the series with a double, a walk, two RBIs and five runs.

With its eight-game homestand now complete, Stony Brook will hit the road for a midweek matchup with the Army Black Knights in West Point, N.Y. on Tuesday. The Black Knights are 16-15 this year and are coming off a series loss to Holy Cross this past weekend. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.

Mike Anderson also contributed reporting.

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