Cam Stone and Teddy Rodliff can shut the door. Stony Brook University baseball coach Matt Senk believes his closers will be doing that a lot.
The pair of juniors are 1-2 on the Seawolves’ career list for saves, with 14 and 11, respectively.
“Rodliff is a lefty that throws from an odd slot, like a sidearm submariner, who is purely nasty on hitters,” said Senk, who is in his 27th year at the helm. “He played in the Cape Cod summer league last year and made some future major-leaguers look pretty bad. And getting Cam Stone back is a huge lift for the program. The confidence those guys give us late in games cannot be measured.”
Stone, who is coming off an arm injury, said he expects to be 100 percent for the start of the season. According to Stone, he suffered a partially torn UCL and had surgery to repair the ligament on May 12 last year.
“They used a foreign mesh instead of a tendon from the wrist or the hamstring, and I’m way ahead of schedule and stronger than before the surgery,” said Stone, who was the top closer in the America East as a sophomore. “I’m real excited to be back and I’ve been throwing now for two months. I’ll have a role in the back part of the bullpen to pitch in key situations and win close games in conference play.”
His return gives Stony Brook a wicked lefty-righty mix in closing situations.
Stony Brook opens the season with a nine-game tour of the South that began Friday with an 18-2 loss to McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Seawolves also play Missouri State, Presbyterian, Rhode Island and Central Florida in southern venues before the March 7 home opener against NYIT.
Stony Brook, which enjoyed a historic run to the College World Series in 2012, captured the America East regular-season title in 2014 and 2015. The Seawolves also played for the America East playoff crown in 2014 and 2016.
“We lacked team chemistry last year,” Senk said. “But the seniors took the initiative earlier this season and set the standards very high to bring the team together. I like the direction and the mindset of this team.”
Senior catcher Dave Real is at the core of the Seawolves’ emergence as a serious conference contender.
“We have much better team chemistry,” Real said. “Limiting the individuality and selfishness and having that many more guys buy into the process will make us successful. We all have the same goals, and that will push us through late in close games and late in the season. That’ll be the difference in 2017.”
The return of sophomore righty Bret Clarke, the 2016 America East Conference Rookie of the Year, also will help make a difference for the Seawolves. The starter had a 6-2 record and a 2.19 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 61 innings. The rest of the rotation is unclear as seven players will battle for the two spots.
“We’re still trying to figure out the rotation in the early part of the season,” Senk said. “We’ll have a healthy competition for the second and third spots in the rotation. One of our strengths will be our depth.”
The offense will be led by versatile junior Andruw Gazzola, who was a first-team All-Conference selection and batted .304 with a team-leading 63 hits and 22 RBIs, and junior outfielder Casey Baker, who led the team in hitting with a .314 average and 31 RBIs.
Senior centerfielder Toby Handley, who was drafted in the 33rd round by Houston, decided to come back to Stony Brook for his senior year. He started all 54 games, scored 33 runs and stole a team-best 12 bases.
Said Senk, “We have all the pieces to win.”