Stony Brook starting pitcher Tyler Johnson delivers in the third...

Stony Brook starting pitcher Tyler Johnson delivers in the third inning of a game against UCLA. (June 15, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

OMAHA, Neb. -- As demoralizing as Stony Brook's 9-1 loss to UCLA was in its first College World Series appearance, the Seawolves can take comfort in one thing -- they've been in this situation before.

They now have no margin for error in the double-elimination tournament, but their road to Omaha was notable for one inspiring comeback after another.

After losing to Central Florida in the second game of the Coral Gables Regional, the Seawolves trailed Missouri State 7-3 in the seventh inning and won. They fell behind UCF 3-0 in the championship game and won.

In the Baton Rouge Super Regional, they lost the first game to LSU in 12 innings a day after allowing tying home runs in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings before play was suspended because of rain.

That experience should have killed their dream, but it didn't. They came back in Game 2 later that day to beat LSU's Kevin Gausman, the top pitcher taken in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month (fourth overall by the Orioles) and then blew out the Tigers in Game 3.

That's quite a track record, and coach Matt Senk hopes it will sustain the Seawolves (52-14) against No. 3 overall seed Florida State (48-16) in an elimination game at 5 p.m. ET Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park. The Seminoles dropped a 4-3 decision to Arizona in 12 innings in their opener after going 5-0 in regional and super regional play.

Rain forced Senk to move the Seawolves' off-day workout to an indoor batting facility, where he spoke to his players about the grit they have shown all season. "They're a resilient group," Senk said. "If anything, this is familiar territory for us and unfamiliar for Florida State.

"Florida State has kind of had their way with everybody in the tournament so far. We're both in the same position . It's a position we've been in before. We'll be ready to go."

Righthander Brandon McNitt (8-3, 2.50 ERA) will be Stony Brook's starting pitcher against Seminoles righthander Mike Compton (11-2, 2.86). Both teams have powerful lineups that could turn it into a high-scoring fight for survival. FSU used its top reliever, Robert Benincasa, for four innings against Arizona, so he's not likely to be available.

Senk saved reliever James Campbell to back up McNitt and said he can come back with Josh Mason, who threw 11/3 innings against UCLA. Although Frankie Vanderka probably will start Tuesday if the Seawolves win and advance, Senk said he would use him for an inning if necessary and still come back with him as Tuesday's starter.

Stony Brook's loss to UCLA was only its fourth in the past 32 games. So the Seawolves have reason to believe in themselves.

After the UCLA loss, second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum said, "Going back to the hotel, everybody was pretty down. You never want to be in the losers' bracket starting in Game 1. But we're a pretty loose group. Everybody showered, changed and went out for dinner and got back to having fun out here.

"For three weeks, including the conference tournament, we've played pretty much flawless baseball. We hit a speed bump. Stay with the same mentality because changing something right now would be exactly the wrong thing to do . . . At this time of year, it is, more than ever, about being mentally tough and staying with it."

Several Seawolves admitted to a case of College World Series nerves, especially because they were trying to live up to the expectations of a local crowd that overwhelmingly embraced them as underdogs.

"It's a little different coming from Stony Brook, where we get like 50 fans a game, to having 20,000 people cheering for you," said catcher Pat Cantwell, who homered for the Seawolves' only run.

"It's nice to get there and feel that, but once the game starts, it's on your shoulders. We know those 20,000 people aren't going to get up to the plate for you."

Centerfielder Travis Jankowski, the Seawolves' leadoff hitter, said he chased pitches he usually lays off in going 0-for-4, but now that's he's over opening-game jitters, he expects his performance to improve.

"The mind-set of the team is that we don't want the season to end," Jankowski said. "This could be the last game, so we're going to lay everything on the field like we have in the previous elimination games. This team is just a bunch of fighters and scrappy, scrappy ballplayers. We love each other on this team, and we don't want it to end."


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