Stony Who? Is coming to the College World Series.
Unheralded Stony Brook pulled off the improbable Sunday night in eliminating six-time national champion Louisiana State from this season's title race. And the Seawolves did it in front of the largest crowd ever to see a game at legendary Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Frankie Vanderka scattered three hits in a complete-game victory that carried fourth-seeded Stony Brook to a 7-2 win that clinched its first trip to Omaha. The Seawolves lost the opening game of the super regional in agonizing fashion but roared back to win the final two games.
“We were underdogs coming into here,” Stony Brook outfielder Travis Jankowski said. “We had nothing to lose. Our motto is ‘shock the world' and to win the last game of the season.”
The Seawolves now have a chance to do that, as do the four other teams that have earned berths in Omaha. UCLA and Arizona qualified Saturday. Two other teams — Florida and Florida State — joined Stony Brook in making it on Sunday.
Three super regionals need to be completed Monday to finish the field for the CWS, which begins Friday at TD Ameritrade Park.
Oregon evened its series with Kent State on Sunday with a 3-2 win. The teams meet Monday night in Eugene, Ore., with Kent State either joining Stony Brook as a first-time qualifier or Oregon clinching its first trip to Omaha since 1954.
Arkansas and Baylor also will play a deciding third game at the Waco (Texas) Super Regional. Arkansas used an amazing comeback — it scored two runs in the ninth inning when Baylor pitchers hit Razorback batters twice with the bases loaded — to post a 5-4 win to even the series.
Florida knocked North Carolina State out of the tournament with a 9-8, 10-inning victory in Gainesville, Fla. Meanwhile, Florida State eliminated Stanford with its second lopsided win at the Tallahassee (Fla.) Super Regional. After winning the opening game 17-1, the Seminoles pulled off an 18-7 win Sunday to earn their 21st trip to Omaha.
Florida State is one of the game's elite programs but for the Seminoles to have a chance to win a first national championship, they could have to get by Stony Brook. The Seawolves are on Florida State's side of the bracket, along with UCLA and Arizona.
UCLA will play the Seawolves in one of Friday's two opening games. Game times will be set Monday.
Two years ago, UCLA played in the championship series. Two years ago, Stony Brook won its first NCAA tournament game after going 0-2 the first two times it made the field of 64.
“I am a little overwhelmed because I think I do know the magnitude of this,” Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said after beating LSU. “It is just an overwhelming feeling. To make it to Omaha, every college baseball team's dream, and to do it against LSU in Alex Box Stadium …”
Is flat-out unbelievable.
Stony Brook is the second No. 4 seed to make the CWS field since the NCAA expanded the tournament in 1999. The other was Fresno State, which won the national championship in 2008.
That's where the comparisons end. Fresno State had made it to Omaha three other times before winning it all. The Bulldogs played in a highly respected conference.
Stony Brook plays in the America East. It's been a Division I member since 2000, and it's located in an area of the country — the Northeast — that hasn't had a CWS representative since the NCAA went away from geographic regionals in 1987.
Having pulled off what many college baseball observers thought would be impossible — beating LSU on its home field — the Seawolves have themselves a new fan.
“I would not be one bit surprised if Stony Brook goes on to win the national championship,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I cannot imagine anyone in the country being better than that team. If they are, I would like to see them.”
Mainieri's team learned first-hand how tough the Seawolves are after they lost the opening game Friday. They held a 2-1 lead in the ninth, a 3-2 lead in the 10th and a 4-3 lead in the 11th. LSU erased each deficit with a solo homer before rain suspended play.
When it resumed Saturday, LSU quickly scored to pull out a 5-4 win. The pitcher who gave up the winning hit? Vanderka.
“It seems like a million years ago but Frank was the guy who was pitching when LSU scored the run at the completion of the first game,” Senk said. “Here he is tonight pitching a complete game. There are so many examples of resiliency, the belief in each other and mental toughness.”
Stony Brook bounced back Saturday to even the series with a 3-1 win, then shocked the Tiger faithful Sunday. The game drew a record 10,620.
“These fans here, they are some of the best fans around,” Vanderka said. “You'd think they'd be nasty now that we won, but every one of those guys told us to go and win it all, saying they'd be cheering us on. So we have to pay our respects to them.”
NCAA.com contributed to this report.
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