Their answer: Why not?
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"I don't think it's too much to ask at all," shortstop Cole Peragine said as the team prepared for its season-opening series against Florida International in Miami this weekend. "We proved that a Northeast team can make it to the World Series. I don't see why the group of guys we have this year can't compete with the best."
The following weekend, it's on to Chapel Hill for three games against No. 2 North Carolina. "We played against great teams before," Peragine said, "so we know what to expect. We just have to play Stony Brook baseball."
Stony Brook, coming off a program-record and NCAA-best 52 victories, is the preseason favorite to win the America East title, which carries an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves became the first team from the conference to make the CWS. Now everyone expects a repeat performance.
"I think people's expectations are for us to be very, very good," coach Matt Senk said. "I don't know that 'very good' will necessarily mean getting back to the World Series, but by the same token, I don't know that it's something that is not achievable."
The toughest part comes after qualifying for the NCAAs. The Seawolves had to beat Miami, Missouri State and Central Florida in the Coral Gables Regional to make the Baton Rouge Super Regional, where they stunned six-time national champion LSU. They then lost to UCLA and Florida State in the CWS.
"We can't say, 'Oh, we're going to do it again.' We have to come in here every day and just work,'' outfielder Tanner Nivins said. "Every team wants to beat us. They see us on their schedule and they're saying, 'Oh, last year, that could have been us in the College World Series. Let's prove we can beat Stony Brook.' "
Seven players were drafted off last season's roster, but Brandon McNitt (8-4, 2.76 ERA) and Frankie Vanderka (3-3, 2.33) are back and Senk has added freshman lefthander Daniel Zamora to complete the starting rotation. Outfielder Steven Goldstein (.337), catcher Kevin Krause (.330), Nivins (.306), Peragine (.304) and first baseman Kevin Courtney (.293) will make the lineup a potent one.
"The run last year was unbelievable, but we put it behind us,'' Courtney said. "There'll always be people out there who will say it was a one-time, Cinderella thing; they might not get back there. We're not going to [be satisfied] because it happened one time and we're happy to be there. We want to get there every year.''