Question 1: Where is Stony Brook?
A) A place just outside Lamp Post where you are likely to meet Tumnus the Faun
B) On the seven seas, one of Jack Sparrow’s hideouts while he’s searching for Hector Barbossa and The Black Pearl
C) The north shore of Long Island
Question 2: What are the Seawolves?
A) More of Jack London’s protagonists
B) A proposed name for an expansion Major League Soccer franchise
C) The mascot of the aforementioned Stony Brook University baseball team
Question 3: Why should you care?
A) Because the Seawolves just completed an upset of epic proportions
B) Because by so doing, they added some new blood to the College World Series
C) Because, temporarily, we no longer have to hear about how awesome the SEC is in all things athletic
Answers: 1-C; 2-C; 3-All of the above
Perhaps, if you are a tennis fan enthralled with the French Open, a soccer fan glued to the TV watching Euro 2012, or a golf aficionado preparing for the U.S. Open, you may have missed it. But this past weekend (June 8-10), the Stony Brook Seawolves baseball team completed an upset of epic proportions.
The ‘Wolves took two of three games against six-time national champion Louisiana State University and punched their ticket for the College World Series in Omaha June 16-24, where they’ll first take on Pac-10 perennial UCLA.
“They outplayed us really in every phase of the game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said after the series-clinching game, won by Stony Brook 7-2. “The people in the South haven’t heard much about Stony Brook, but they know who they are now.”
Indeed. A look inside the numbers throws the curtain back on this series: The Seawolves trailed for just one inning in the entire three-game set, when LSU’s Mason Katz hit a walkoff single in the 12th inning of Game 1. LSU’s Raph Rhymes was held to just one hit in the series after coming in batting .452. The Seawolves played in front of an LSU-record 10,620 fans – nearly as many as they played in front of their entire home schedule this year. Stony Brook outhit LSU 35-15 in the series. Sophomore Frankie Vanderka, who took the Game 1 loss, bounced back to throw a three-hitter in the 7-2, series clinching win. And on and on and on.
Perhaps most impressively, Stony Brook was a Division III school as recently as 1995, when it transitioned to Division II. The team then joined the big boys of Division I in 2000. Coach Matt Senk has been there every step of the way, as he arrived at the school in 1991.
“I’m a little overwhelmed, quite frankly, because I think I do know the magnitude of this,” Senk told the Boston Globe after the game, describing how former LSU coach and five-time national champion Skip Bertman congratulated him after the game. “To make it to Omaha (is) every college baseball team’s dream, every college baseball coach’s dream and it’s come to fruition. And to do it against LSU, Alex Box Stadium … to shake coach Bertman’s hand on the way in. Oh my God. Having that man congratulate me for going to the College World Series, it’s just unbelievable.”
Just a little more than a decade after going to Division I, the Wolves are making believers out of people. Playing in Joe Nathan Field (yes, named after THAT Joe Nathan, the most famous Stony Brook alum who donated $500,000 for a field renovation), Stony Brook had seven players chosen in this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, including outfielder and America East Conference Player of the Year Travis Jankowski, taken No. 44 overall by the San Diego Padres – making him the first player in Stony Brook history taken in the first round.
(Louisiana State, by contrast, had “just” five players chosen in the draft.)
More firsts for Stony Brook: It’s the first team from New York State to reach the College World Series since 1980; the first team from the Northeast since Main in 1986; and the first team from the America East Conference to make it.
And, they have provided a notable second – they are the second No. 4-seeded Super Regional team to advance this far. The first? Fresno State in 2008, which just happened to go on to win it all. Will the Seawolves have the same success? Well, after defeating another perennial champion in the University of Miami – IN Miami, perhaps anything’s possible.
“Our motto is: ‘Shock the world and win the last game of the season,’” Jankowski said. “So as long as we do that, we should be all right from here on out.”