Seawolves defeat Tigers to advance to CWS
The year may not have ended the way we wanted, but I wouldn’t take this season back for anything. I love this team. We’re going to get through this. It’s a tough pill for us to swallow right now, but it was a great year.” Raphy Rhymes, LSU outfielder
Stony Brook arrived in town last week with little name recognition and carrying the stigma of being just a No. 4 seed heading into its first super regional.
None of that, nor top-seeded LSU and its NCAA tournament experience, nor the magic of Alex Box Stadium, or even the heat and unpredictability of the Louisiana weather could faze the talented and determined Seawolves.
Stony Brook beat the Tigers 7-2 in the weather-delayed championship game of the Baton Rouge Regional on Sunday night in The Box. The Seawolves (52-13) won the last two games of the best-of-three series by a combined score of 10-3 and out-hit LSU 35-15 for the weekend.
Their leadoff hitter — center fielder Travis Jankowski (eight hits over the weekend) — and their No. 3 hitter — third baseman William Carmona (seven hits) — matched LSU’s weekend hit total by themselves.
The next stop for red-hot Stony Brook is Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series, where it will face No. 2 national seed UCLA on Friday at a time to be determined. The Tigers finished their season 47-18 after failing in a bid to reach their third CWS in five seasons.
“We were underdogs coming in here,” said Jankowski, who had four hits Sunday. “We had nothing to lose. Our motto is, ‘shock the world.’”
Maxx Tissenbaum had a two-run double and an RBI single, Kevin Krause had two RBI singles, and Carmona had three hits and reached base four times. Five Seawolves had at least two hits, and all nine batters reached base.
“Offensively, one through nine, that was the toughest lineup that we have faced all year,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I will put them in the category with (No. 1 national seed) Florida, maybe even better, They came down here and played great baseball, and they deserved to win this super regional. They outplayed us, really in every phase of the game.”
LSU, on the other hand, had just three hits for the second consecutive game and could never put a serious dent in the deficit after Stony Brook knocked starter Ryan Eades (5-3) out of the game by scoring three runs in the third to take a 4-1 lead.
Eades and the five Tigers who followed him to the mound were no match for Frankie Vanderka (3-3), who was making his sixth start of the season and came up with his third complete game, one day after giving up a run in one-third of an inning as LSU prevailed 5-4 in 12 innings in Game 1, which spilled over from Friday into Saturday because of rain.
But Vanderka was in command throughout Sunday’s game against the Southeastern Conference regular-season champion, which swept the Baton Rouge Regional in three games a week earlier. He walked four and struck out five, throwing 129 pitches.
“Frank’s performance is one of many examples of our resiliency, the belief in each other and mental toughness,” Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said. “I am a little overwhelmed because I think I do know the magnitude of this. It is just an overwhelming feeling.”
The game started seven hours later than scheduled to maximize the chances of avoiding rain that was forecast for the early afternoon. When it finally got under way, the Seawolves hitters looked like they were eager to get going.
Jankowski led off with a single against Eades, Pat Cantwell bunted him to second, and Carmona singled him home for a 1-0 lead. LSU pulled even in the bottom half when Mason Katz homered to left — his team-leading 13th of the season and second in the super regional.
“I got a good pitch I could handle, and I put a good swing on it,” Katz said. “It was one of the very few mistakes (Vanderka) made tonight. He was phenomenal.”
Eades seemed more comfortable in the second, retiring Stony Brook in order, but Jankowski doubled to start the third and Cantwell bunted him to third before Carmona struck out. Eades, though, couldn’t get the third out as Tissenbaum doubled in a run, Krause singled in another, Cole Peragine singled Krause to second, and Steven Goldstein hit an RBI single to make it 4-1 and finish Eades.
The Seawolves kept it going against Joe Broussard in the fourth. Cantwell was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on catcher Ty Ross’ throwing error. Carmona walked, and Tissenbaum doubled home both runners for a 6-1 lead.
Vanderka held the Tigers hitless for five innings after Katz’s homer, allowing four walks and seeing one batter reach on Carmona’s error at third. He had retired eight in a row when Alex Edward doubled with one out in the seventh. Tyler Hanover singled him to third and Austin Nola hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 before JaCoby Jones flied to left.
The Seawolves matched that run in the eighth when Carmona led off with a double, and Krause singled him home.
Vanderka finished strong just as the entire Stony Brook team did.
He got LSU in order in the eighth and ninth, ending it with a strikeout of Edward.
“The year may not have ended the way we wanted,” Tigers outfielder Raph Rhymes said, “but I wouldn’t take this season back for anything. I love this team. We’re going to get through this. It’s a tough pill for us to swallow right now, but it was a great year.”
The final result was symbolic of how quickly the Tigers’ fortunes had changed. A week earlier, Edward had hit a game-tying RBI double in the ninth inning as LSU advanced to the super regional to get within two wins of Omaha.
But on this Sunday, Edward walked back to the losing team’s dugout as the previously unappreciated team from a suburban community on Long Island, N.Y., dog-piled on the Alex Box Stadium infield, celebrating its first trip to the College World Series.
“I would not be one bit surprised if Stony Brook goes on to win the national championship,” Mainieri said. “I cannot imagine anyone in the country being better than that team. If they are, I’d like to see them.”