Red-hot teams collide as #Seawolves play at Hartford this weekend

Anthony Italiano

March 28, 2014

2014 Stony Brook Baseball

West Hartford, Conn. - The Stony Brook baseball team hits the road this weekend for a three-game series with the Hartford Hawks, a battle of two of the hottest teams in America East. The #Seawolves have won 10 of their last 13 games, including a three-game sweep of Albany. The Hawks have taken 11 of their last 14 games, including two out of three vs. Binghamton last weekend.

Weekend 6 - America East Play - Saturday, March 29-Sunday, March 30
Stony Brook (10-9, 3-0 America East) vs. Hartford (11-8, 2-1 America East)
Fiondella Field  •  West Hartford, Conn.
Saturday - 10 a.m. (DH)  •  Sunday - 12 p.m.

Sat., Game 1 - STATS  |  VIDEO
 SB Starter: RHP Frankie Vanderka
HART Starter: LHP Sean Newcomb

Sat., Game 2 - STATS  |  VIDEO
 SB Starter: RHP Brandon McNitt
 HART Starter: RHP Brian Hunter

Sun. - STATS  |  VIDEO
SB Starter: TBA
HART Starter: RHP David Drouin

Stony Brook #Seawolves (10-9, 0-0 America East)
Head Coach:
Matt Senk, 24th season
Overall Record: 658-434-3
Record at SB:

The Matchup: Stony Brook looks to continue its hot run, having won 10 of its last 13 games, as it enters a three-game series with another hot squad - the Hartford Hawks, who have won 11 of their last 14 games. This will be the first of two three-game series these squads will play against each other. It's also a rematch of last year's regular season finale when the two teams battled for the final spot in the America East Championship, and the #Seawolves came out on top. The first game of this series will be a classic pitcher's battle as Hartford sends the nation's leader in ERA Sean Newcomb to the mound against Stony Brook's Frankie Vanderka, who is coming off his third career no-hitter. The winner of this series will have early pole position in the America East race for the regular season championship.

No-Hit X 3: Frankie Vanderka pitched his third career no-hitter on March 22 when he blanked Albany over nine innings in a 7-0 victory. Vanderka struck out 10 in the game, including the final batter, Brian Bullard, to clinch it. Vanderka is the ONLY active pitcher in NCAA Div. I to throw multiple no-hitters. For his efforts, Vanderka was showered with a slew of awards - he was named America East Pitcher of the Week, NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week, Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week, National Pitcher of the Week, ECAC Metro-Upstate Pitcher of the Week and Top Performer of the Week.

Chavy and Stone Honored: In addition to Vanderka earning America East Pitcher of the Week honors, two other #Seawolves captured weekly conference awards as Robert Chavarria was named Player of the Week and Cameron Stone was tabbed Rookie of the Week. Chavarria hit .421 and scored eight runs in five games, including scoring game-winning runs against USC and Albany. Stone picked up two saves after pitching 4-1/3 shutout innings, closing out wins over USC and Albany, the win over the Trojans being the first the school's ever recorded against a Pac-12 member.

Timely Hitting: Stony Brook will look to continue a good string of timely hitting this weekend. In the three-game series against Albany, the #Seawolves batted .371 with runners in scoring position and had seven two-out RBIs.

Conference Format: With the start of conference play, let's review the America East's schedule format. The seven teams will play a 24-game schedule spread out over eight three-game series. The #Seawolves will face two teams both home and away and will face the other four teams just once. Stony Brook's home-and-home partners this season are Albany and Hartford. The team will host Maine and Binghamton and travel to UMass Lowell and UMBC. The top four teams in the conference, not including UMass Lowell, which is ineligible due to NCAA Div. I transitional status, will advance to the 2014 America East Championship, to be held May 22-25 at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass.

California Trip Recap: Stony Brook recently came back from a week in the sun on the west coast where the team faced UC Riverside, USC and Cal State Northridge. The #Seawolves won the first of a three-game series with Riverside only to lose two straight. Then Stony Brook defeated USC, the program's first-ever win against a Pac-12 school. The team finished the trip with a pitcher's duel against Northridge, coming up short in a 1-0 loss. Robert Chavarria dominated on the trip, hitting .500 (9-for-18) with four RBI. Kevin Krause bashed two home runs in the Riverside series. The pitching staff as a whole had a 2.95 ERA, led by impressive starts from Brandon McNitt, Tyler Honahan and Tim Knesnik.

California Pipeline: The #Seawolves have done a tremendous job recruiting the state of California. Stony Brook currently has seven players from Southern California, including Brandon McNitt, Austin Shives, Josh Mason, Chad Lee, Robert Chavarria, Jeremy Giles and Daniel Zamora. All-time #Seawolves wins leader Tyler Johnson (2009-12) also hails from California.

Call It a Sweep: In addition to sweeping Fordham in a three-game series March 8-9, the #Seawolves swept the weekly America East awards as Kevin Courtney was named America East Player of the Week, Frankie Vanderka was tabbed America East Pitcher of the Week and Casey Baker garnered America East Rookie of the Week accolades. Courtney batted .467 with four extra-base hits and a walk-off double in the 14th inning of a 10-9 win over the Rams. In the first game of the series, Vanderka blanked Fordham by scattering three hits over nine innings while striking out 11. Baker went 6-for-9 with three runs scored and a critical walk in the 12th inning of the series finale vs. Fordham that helped keep the game alive.

A Stepping Stone to Success: Freshman Cameron Stone is having a nice start to his collegiate career. He has quickly developed into an option in the late innings, posting 20 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched and earning three saves. He helped Stony Brook go into extra innings at Wake Forest with four strong innings of work. He stepped up again in extra innings with three solid innings against Fordham on March 9. Then he recorded saves with a scoreless ninth inning at UC Riverside (March 14) and 2-1/3 shutout innings in the win over USC (March 18). He locked down Stony Brook's 7-3 win over Albany (March 22) with two shutout innings.

Close Affairs: Stony Brook is quickly gaining an appreciation for playing in tight games. The #Seawolves have already had eight of their 19 games decided by one run this season. They are 4-4 in those games with three of the losses ending on walk-offs. Last season, Stony Brook participated in 19 one-run affairs.

Dominating America East: Stony Brook has been at or near the top of America East now for a few seasons. No team has been more dominant over the last four seasons than the Seawolves, who are 76-29 (.724) in conference play since the start of the 2010 season with two regular season (2011, 2012) and two tournament (2010, 2012) championships.

Preseason Favorite: Stony Brook has been picked as the co-favorite to win America East in 2014, according to the coaches' preseason poll released on Feb. 4. Stony Brook and defending tournament champion Binghamton both received three first-place votes. Defending America East regular season champion Maine was picked third, followed by Hartford fourth, Albany fifth, UMBC sixth and league newcomer UMass Lowell seventh.

Youth Movement: Stony Brook was incredibly young in 2013. Freshmen and sophomores accounted for 61% of the team's at-bats and 45.6% of the team's innings pitched. 

The Complete Package: Senior starter Frankie Vanderka ranked second in the nation in complete games last season with eight, including four consecutive complete games mid-year. He ranked third in America East last season with a 2.80 ERA and second in wins with eight.

A Cannon Behind the Plate: Senior catcher Anthony Italiano was tested behind the plate all of last season, but did a phenomenal job limiting base stealers. He finished the year 37-for-84 in throwing out base stealers, which is good for a 44% caught stealing percentage. The 37 caught steals easily led America East.

Frankie Say No-No: Senior starter Frankie Vanderka pitched his second career no-hitter last season. On March 10, Vanderka held the Fordham Rams hitless over nine innings, and the Seawolves won the game with two runs in the ninth inning. Interestingly enough, the game was only a seven-inning game, but the two teams kept playing because the game was scoreless. Vanderka pitched his first no-hitter two years ago as a freshman, when he struck out 13 in a win over NJIT. For his efforts, Vanderka was named America East Pitcher of the Week, Northeast Region Player of the Week, NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week and a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week.

In the Record Books: Senior Brandon McNitt is fifth in program history in wins (22), ninth in strikeouts (190) and third in innings pitched (317). Senior Frankie Vanderka is fourth in complete games (14) among Seawolves in the Div. I era (2000-present).

Seawolves in the Pros: Stony Brook Baseball has a tremendous reputation and traditon of sending its graduates to professional baseball. The program has had 19 student-athletes selected in the Major League Baseball draft and 10 others sign Minor League free agent contracts. Twenty other Seawolves have signed and played in the Independent Leagues. Currently, there are 10 former Seawolves active in the Major League and Minor League systems, including Joe Nathan, who is the closer for the Detroit Tigers, and Tom Koeher, a starter for the Miami Marlins. In 2012 alone, Stony Brook had seven players drafted alone, including first-rounder Travis Jankowski.

Joe Nathan Field: Stony Brook University has a fantastic baseball facility, thanks in large part to Seawolves Baseball alumnus Joe Nathan '97, who donated the lead gift to renovate the baseball field, which was transformed into Joe Nathan Field. Opened in May 2011 and dedicated in October 2011, Joe Nathan Field boasts new FieldTurf, new dugouts, new bullpens, new hitting tunnels and a new scoreboard, courtesy of Bethpage Federal Credit Union.

Recapping Last Season: After a difficult start to the 2013 season, Stony Brook rebounded nicely by winning its final four America East series to qualify for the America East Championship for the eighth consecutive year, which is the longest active streak among the current member institutions. Stony Brook fell short of winning the tournament title after losing to Maine, beating Albany to stay alive and then falling to Maine again in an elimination game. Outstanding individual performances included first baseman Kevin Courtney, starting pitcher Frankie Vanderka and outfielder Jack Parenty earning first-team All-America East honors, reliever Tim Knesnik, catcher Anthony Italiano and third baseman Johnny Caputo making second-team All-America East and Parenty grabbing America East Rookie of the Year honors.

Shock the World: Stony Brook is just two years removed from one of the more magical seasons in collegiate baseball history. The #Seawolves captured the nation's attention by beating six-time national champion LSU in the best 2-out-of-3 NCAA Super Regional to advance to the College World Series, becoming the first school from the Northeast Region since 1986 to do so. The #Seawolves finished the year with a nation-leading 52 victories, which led to head coach Matt Senk earning NCBWA National Coach of the Year honors.

Up Next: Stony Brook will play a mid-week home game against Marist Tuesday. Next weekend, the #Seawolves participate in the first-ever Dodd Stadium College Baseball Classic in Norwich, Conn., taking on Connecticut and Bryant. For tickets, click here.