June 11, 2012


Stony Brook Shocks the World, Heads to Omaha

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

Sean@CollegeBaseballInsider.com @collbaseball


At a little before 11:15 on the East Coast Sunday night, the unfathomable happened.


Stony Brook, a team with a baker’s dozen years of experience playing Division I college baseball, finished off LSU, a program with six national titles and 15 College World Series trips, to earn a spot in Omaha for this year’s College World Series.


Stony Brook, from the America East Conference, which is rated No. 25 of 32 Division I leagues in terms of strength, had beaten LSU, from the all-powerful SEC, always among the best baseball conferences in the land.


Stony Brook, from the north shore of Long Island, had claimed a spot in Omaha by winning a Regional hosted by Miami, with four national titles and 23 CWS trips, and by beating the Tigers two out of three in the Super Regionals before record crowds at Alex Box Stadium, where one game’s crowd was more than the Seawolves had played in front of during their 57 regular-season games combined.


The thought of Stony Brook playing in the College World Series is starting to sink in, not only in the college baseball world, but also among the rest of an underdog-loving America – the Seawolves, normally a score-only if best, were featured in today’s New York Times and even on the Wall Street Journal’s website.


It’s a thought that shocks most, which is appropriate considering the team’s “Shock the World” mantra. But not everyone.


“If you asked me what my reaction is, I’m not shocked,” said Albany coach Jon Mueller, whose Great Danes handed the Seawolves one of their 13 losses in a magical 52-win season so far. “I know what they’re capable of. This has been building for a long time.”


Stony Brook was a Division III school guided by Matt Senk until making the transition to Division II in 1995 and to Division I in 2000. Senk, who’s gone 623-389-3 in 22 years at the school 60 miles east of the Big Apple, led the Seawolves to three NCAA Regionals since 2004, barely missing last year when they were upset in the America East tournament and finished with 42 wins.


That left the Seawolves hungry for more. And believing they could do more. Much, much more.


In a January interview with CollegeBaseballInsider.com, star center fielder Travis Jankowski said:  “We’re definitely not going to be satisfied with just a conference championship. I think we’d like to make it to the Super Regionals at least. One win in the regionals two years ago was nice, but I think we’re trying to win a regional this year and advance as far as possible.”


In another preseason interview with CBI, star third baseman Willie Carmona said: “I want the whole world to know who Stony Brook is. Beat a big team, upset people and make it to a Super Regional, maybe the College World Series.”


Let’s see… Check, check, check and check. The “whole world” box is still open, although Carmona will settle for a check in the college baseball world box.


Holy Cross is one of the few teams to have success against the Seawolves, sweeping a home doubleheader 3-1 and 5-3. Crusaders coach Greg DiCenzo said Monday morning that outside of Texas A&M, Stony Brook was the most balanced team he has seen in some time.


“They are an extremely well-coached team where each player recognizes their individual skill-sets,” DiCenzo said. “They rarely try to do more than they are capable of, and subsequently, always put themselves in a position to win games in the late innings. They handle the baseball very well and compete as well as any team I have seen in the box – tough outs up and down their lineup.


“Needless to say, their success provides every college baseball team in the nation a chance to believe.” 


Believe it. A team from the Northeast with seven guys selected in the 2012 Major League Draft – highlighted by Jankowski, the player of the year in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league who was taken at No. 44 by San Diego – is headed to Omaha.


A school whose alumni include an Oscar winner (Mark Bridges for costume design for The Artist), a Pulitzer Prize winner (Scott Higham), a Grammy Award winner (Steven Mackey), the first American female astronaut (Patricia S. Cowings) and a Major League closer (Joe Nathan), will now represent the little guy in playing for college baseball’s national title.        


“It’s great for Northeast baseball and our league,” Maine head coach Steve Trimper said late Sunday night. “What an unbelievable run. That team has a lot of great players, and they deserve what they earned.”


Added Mueller: “It does wonders for Northeast baseball. Wherever it’s cold and windy and rainy, it sends a message that hard work and grinding it out can get it done.”


It’s a message of inspiration for all of us: The unfathomable can become reality.