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    Baseball Starts Season Off With Series Victory

    Last year the Stony Brook baseball team began the season 0-6, thanks in part to its traditionally tough out of conference schedule. This year the team wanted to come out stronger in its tough games early on. Well, so far, so good.

    The Seawolves took two of three from Charleston Southern over the weekend behind strong pitching from reigning America East pitcher of the year Gary Novakowski and senior Tom Koehler. They won the games 6-4 and 5-3. Koehler set the tone early in the first game, striking out seven of the first 11 batters he faced. His final line was six innings, two runs, four hits and nine strikeouts. “I would have to say a little bit of everything was working,” Koehler said. “The key was just throwing strikes and missing down.”

    Stony Brook got on the board first when freshman third baseman Nick Thode hit his first career home run after sophomore Michael Stephan led off the inning with a hit by pitch. Thode added an RBI single and finished the day four for five with a home run and three RBIs. Stephan, who Coach Senk said is a former linebacker with a football mentality and is “built like a fire hydrant,” was fourth in the country last year in being hit by a pitch.

    In the second game Novakowski held the Buccaneers down with six innings of two run ball and had four strikeouts. He attributed his success to being aggressive early. “I was able to establish the strike zone early with my fastball, which set up my off-speed pitches for the rest of game.”

    The Seawolves broke the game open in the seventh inning when junior second baseman Chad Rebecca hit a bases loaded two-RBI double. The Buccaneers nearly got out of the inning without anymore damage but sophomore first baseman Robert Dyer got a clutch two-out single with the bases loaded to score two more.

    Stony Brook was blown out 10-0 in the last game of the series when junior Mike Errigo couldn’t get out of the third inning. Senk said that Errigo, who is coming off a medical red shirt year, “lost his breaking ball,” and after that the hitters were able to key in on his fastball. Despite the loss, Senk took positives from the game, noting that he liked what he saw from 6’5 freshman Evan Stecko-Haley, who pitched three and one-third innings with two earned runs and five strikeouts.

    Overall Senk was pleased with his team’s timely hitting and solid pitching. He added that the nonconference games are a chance for him to find out what works and what doesn’t in time for the 20 conference games later in the season. “The most important games are our conference schedule, the nonconference one’s allow us to do a bit of tinkering and try different options,” he said. It will be interesting to see if freshmen continue to produce for the Seawolves and force Senk’s hand when it comes to conference play.

    The coach also has an interesting way of looking at his team’s season. “I break our season up into three seasons. Nonconference, is the month of March, we want to post as many wins as possible in the 20 plus games we play. That’s to get us ready for the 24 conference games. The last season is the America East tournament.”

    While a small sample size, the first couple of games bode well for the Seawolves. The performances of Koehler and Novakowski will go a long way towards determining how successful they are this season. Both Koehler and Novakowski have their eyes on a conference championship and admit that there is a friendly competition among them.

    “Tom and myself definitely push each other, I mean he went out there and pitched a great game in game one, so I did all I could to match that,” Novakowski said. Koehler added, “Me and Gary are always pushing each other, and we share the same goals and that’s getting to the NCAA tournament. But we have a friendly competition and are always trying to one up each other.”

    While that may be music to the ears of Stony Brook baseball players and fans, the same cannot be said for the rest of the America East.

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