In a classic Cinderella story, Stony Brook University’s baseball team is now advancing to the College World Series. The Seawolves crushed the Louisiana State University Tigers on Sunday night winning 7-2 and ending the series. After being heckled as “Tiger Bait” throughout the series by Louisiana fans, they received a standing ovation and cheers from the LSU crowd after their big win.
“They outplayed us really in every phase of the game” LSU coach Paul Mainieri admits post-game. “That team can play with anybody”. Stony Brook shut out LSU’s dreams of making it to the College World Series in Omaha for the 16th time.
If Stony Brook was a relatively unknown team before, that is certainly not the case now. "To be the lead story on 'SportsCenter,' it just blows you away. It's a pinch-yourself kind of moment." Says SBU head coach Matt Senk. “To make it to Omaha is every college baseball team’s dream, every college baseball coach’s dream and it’s come to fruition.”
Senk began coaching the unheard of team in 1991, eight years before they became Division I in 1999. But until Stony Brook’s dominating record of winning 28 out of 31 games put them on the fast track to the national title, they were barely noticed.
“The people in the South haven’t heard much about Stony Brook” says Mainieri. “But they know who they are now”
This underdog team is no stranger to professional scouts though. Seven Seawolves were selected in last week’s Major League Baseball draft (compared to five from LSU). They have eight players with 168 or more at-bats hitting .300 or better.
With their motto “Shock the World” the players are determined to keep playing that way. As the next series is rapidly approaching, the team is keeping a positive attitude.
“We've got a hostile environment coming in, and we're kind of excited to embrace it.” Leadoff hitter Travis Jankowski says. “We’ve played with the big teams, and we can compete with them."
The Stony Brook team received a hero’s welcome at MacArthur Airport on Monday with their families and friends waiting for their return. The team walked out to their community’s loud cheers and overwhelming support down a red carpet laid out for them. Over 100 family members will be travelling down to Omaha for the first game of the series against UCLA.
"Our motto is win the last game of the season," Jankowski said. "As long as we do that, we should be all right."