Stony Brook’s chance to win its way into the NCAA baseball tournament was washed away on Sunday.
The Seawolves had advanced to the championship round of the America East Conference Tournament, in which the winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAAs, and was hosting NJIT. With a full day of rain in the forecast, the conference and game officials decided to end the tournament without crowning a champion. As a result, the Highlanders — not the Seawolves — will get the bid.
"It’s extremely disappointing because I feel like our team deserves the opportunity," Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said. "[The Seawolves were] the regular-season champion and [the] program has represented the America East well in the sport of baseball on the national stage.
"The rules are written in a certain way for circumstances like this and that’s how NJIT advances and we’re left going home for the summer."
As the regular-season champion, Stony Brook (25-10) was the top seed in the double-elimination format. The Seawolves lost their first tournament game to Maine and had to win two elimination games to reach the championship round. NJIT (23-17) advanced to the final round without losing a game, which meant SBU needed to beat the Highlanders twice to earn the bid.
Heilbron explained that the America East’s rules call for the bid to go to the team that has advanced the furthest if the tournament cannot be completed. NJIT is not the conference champion but does get the spot in the NCAAs.
The teams opened the championship round on Saturday at Joe Nathan Field, but the game was suspended because of inclement weather in the third inning with Stony Brook ahead 1-0, the bases loaded and one out.
In order for the games to count in the America East Tournament, they must go a full nine innings. Had the Seawolves won the suspended game, they and the Highlanders would have played one game for the bid. If weather prevented that last game from being played, Stony Brook would have been awarded the automatic bid.
"Based on what the forecast was for today and that it seemed very unlikely that there would be a window to allow [six more] innings to happen, we’re disappointed more wasn’t done to finish yesterday," Heilbron said. "At least get in as many innings as we could . . . There was a chance to play some more after the game was suspended. It’s unfortunate that decision was made and now we’ve got a group of athletes who are devastated."
The teams were at the field at approximately 10 a.m. Sunday and waiting for a window in the weather that might allow them to resume play. After 2 ½ hours of steady rain and more in the forecast, the decision was made to end the tournament. There was no option for the America East to play on Monday because the NCAA will announce its brackets at midday.
The NCAA does allow teams to play conference tournaments until midnight, but Nathan Field has no lights.