Willie Carmona swung away in the seventh inning, and when his no-doubt-about-it three-run home run sailed far over the fence in right-center, Stony Brook was well on its way to a 13-6 baseball victory over Maine on Friday in the title game of the America East Championship.
The Seawolves (46-11) will make their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last nine years and third in the last five years. Regional sites and matchups will be announced at noon Monday.
Stony Brook had an 8-6 lead when Carmona batted against reliever Mike Connolly, who had thrown eight innings in pitching Maine (28-28) to a 5-1 victory over Binghamton in the morning elimination game. "I knew he had pitched earlier,'' Carmona said, "so I knew his arm would be at least a little fatigued.''
Carmona, a switch-hitting third baseman from Hempstead, was batting lefthanded. When he connected on Connolly's 2-and-2 fastball, it sounded like a thousand aluminum cans being crushed simultaneously. The homer was estimated at 380 feet.
"It's unbelievable,'' second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum said. "Any pitch that is near the plate, he can turn it around and put it over the wall, over the scoreboard. It's pretty incredible.''
Stony Brook had 18 hits, three each by Travis Jankowski (three RBIs, three runs), Tissenbaum (two RBIs) and Tanner Nivins and two each by Carmona (four RBIs), Kevin Krause and Kevin Courtney. James Campbell (5-0) pitched four shutout innings in relief to earn the victory.
It was Carmona's team-leading ninth home run and eighth batting lefty. That was of special interest to his dad, William, who prodded his son to become a switch hitter back in Little League.
"It was completely uncomfortable,'' Willie said of his early travails. "I used to cry because I didn't want to hit lefthanded. Eventually things started clicking. He knew.''
Carmona's dad, who had been signed by the Toronto Blue Jays and spent time in the minor leagues in the early 1990s, joyously watched the on-field celebration after the game. "I feel very proud because I know how much he has put into it,'' he said. "I know how many swings he has taken.''
Carmona, who also had a sacrifice fly, played a big role in breaking a 6-6 tie in the sixth. With one out, he hit a booming triple to left and scored on Tissenbaum's single up the middle.
"We needed that run because they had come back,'' Tissenbaum said. "Momentum was just sitting there. When hit the ground, it was pandemonium in here.''
And that was merely the beginning.