Even after CWS disappointment, it was great season for Stony Brook

Stony Brook starting pitcher Tyler Johnson throws in

Stony Brook starting pitcher Tyler Johnson throws in the first inning against UCLA. (June 15, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

OMAHA, Neb. -- One minute, Stony Brook's baseball team was on Cloud Nine as the toast of Omaha and the College World Series, and two games later, the Seawolves were in the pit of despair after lopsided losses to No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Florida State eliminated them in unceremonious fashion.

Thirteen walks allowed, a key error and a .194 CWS batting average were too much to overcome. "You can't, against good teams, make the mistakes we made and expect to survive," coach Matt Senk said after Sunday's 12-2 loss to FSU. "That said, I'm extremely proud of this team and the university I work for and the conference we represent.''

Emotion rising in his throat, Senk added, "This is a great bunch of young men, and I'm very, very proud of them. But that doesn't make the disappointment of this great season coming to an end any less painful."

The Seawolves (52-15) were scheduled to arrive on Long Island late Monday night, and they will say their goodbyes at their traditional final team meeting Tuesday before heading to Citi Field to be honored by the Mets.

That meeting, at which the seniors speak, should be a very special moment. This was the greatest team in Stony Brook history in any sport. This was the team that informed the nation that Stony Brook is a top academic institution located on Long Island, and it made people ask out loud, "What is a Seawolf, anyway?"

Some assuredly will say SBU played over its head, but when you have to beat Miami, Central Florida and Missouri State in a regional and then go to Baton Rouge, where no visitor had won even one super regional game, and dominate LSU to reach Omaha, you've earned it.

Florida State coach Mike Martin, who is making his 15th trip to the CWS and has never won it, said, "Stony Brook is a great story. They earned every single thing they accomplished. For them to go into Alex Box [LSU's stadium] and win two games, that's phenomenal."

That achievement is what prompted Omahans to adopt the Seawolves as their own. The reception Stony Brook's players received in the streets and in an autograph session after their first workout, where they were swarmed by thousands of fans, was overwhelming.

Said third baseman Willie Carmona, "I come from a pretty bad neighborhood [in Hempstead]. For a kid who grew up with very little to come to a place like this and have everybody know him is unbelievable. Shocking."

"I think when we get home, we'll realize what we did," centerfielder Travis Jankowski said, "and that this is a great legacy."

The only thing Senk could compare it to in terms of college athletics in the New York area was the run the St. John's basketball team made to the Final Four in 1985. But St. John's was long established as a national hoops power. This was a breakthrough nationally for Stony Brook.

"These young men have done so much for our university in so many ways," Senk said. "I'm hopeful it will have a ripple effect that goes on for a long time."

If the day ever comes when Stony Brook is well-known athletically on the national scene, this Seawolves baseball team is where it took root.

"We did what no one thought we could do, what everyone thought was basically impossible," Carmona said. "We made it happen somehow, and I'll never forget that."

A few hours after Stony Brook's season ended, Carmona added via Twitter: "My greatest fear is to not be remembered. Now I'm a part of a team that will never be forgotten.''

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