No pressure, no fear as Stony Brook faces top pick Gausman
In this anything-seems-possible dream of a season, can Stony Brook University's baseball team capture some Louisiana lightning when it meets seventh-ranked LSU on Friday afternoon in the best-of-three Baton Rouge Super Regional?
Stony Brook likely will face righthander Kevin Gausman, the first pitcher selected in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft Monday. He will receive an estimated $5-million signing bonus from the Orioles.
"We think this guy's got some pretty good stuff," Seawolves second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum said. "Yeah, fourth overall speaks for itself. Their team is unbelievable. There's a reason why they are ranked seventh in the country."
Then again, who can tell with this Stony Brook team? It already has been a dragon-slayer against four-time national champion Miami in the Coral Gables Regional, in which the Seawolves won three straight elimination games to advance to the Super Regionals.
It got to the point in the opener against Miami that coach Matt Senk apologized for one of his players stealing a base with the Seawolves holding a big lead. That Stony Brook could ever see itself in such a commanding position against a storied major college power was a remarkably defining moment in the program's history.
Even if the Seawolves can't beat Gausman, they think they can extend the series to three games against the six-time national champs. Unless he has a brief outing, Gausman doesn't figure to pitch again by Sunday, the last scheduled day of the series. The winner makes the College World Series.
"Our lineup has done a great job all year," Tissenbaum said. "There really isn't a spot where you are going to get a soft out."
The team batting average is .336.
"Somebody's going to have to stop us, I think, because it's not going to be that we're going to take ourselves out of a game," Tissenbaum said. "[Facing Gausman] I think is something that we all embrace. There's nothing better than going in against somebody that you are really challenged by and having the chance to come out on top. Even if things don't work out in your favor, it's something that as a college player you are going to learn from and become a better hitter down the road. It's not that anybody's afraid or worried or backing down from that.
"We expect to go down and play our best," Tissenbaum continued, "but we're playing with house money right now. There's really no pressure on us. There's no expectations other than our own. I think [LSU] probably knows there's a lot on their shoulders. They have to beat us. We're not supposed to be there. For us, it will make it easy to just go out and play, which is the easiest way to go out there, not to be tense and stressed."
Travis Jankowski, one of seven Stony Brook players to be drafted, is not going to back down against Gausman. He expects to see him in the future -- in the big leagues.
"I'm pretty sure he's probably a very competitive guy, as well as I am," Jankowski said. "So maybe this is the start of a couple of more challenges between the two of us in years to come. We obviously don't want to stop here. Once again we're the underdog and we have no pressure on us. Just go out and play."
Senk is conceding nothing.
"I don't know that it's out of the realm of possibility," he said about beating LSU. "It's a huge challenge. But a team that is talented and a team that is playing its best and is playing together as we are, and you add in that 'don't have anything to lose factor,' that's a very dangerous team."