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Stony Brook's baseball success inspires other SBU athletes, too

Stony Brook's William Carmona (5) is met in

Stony Brook's William Carmona (5) is met in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the seventh inning during an NCAA college baseball tournament regional championship game against Central Florida. (June 4, 2012) Credit: AP

Division I athletic programs usually forge their identity through success in football and/ or men's basketball. Stony Brook has had that success, but it was the Seawolves' College World Series baseball team that became the standard-bearer.

And that is a strong statement for baseball, considering Stony Brook was the only university in the country that had its football, men's soccer, men's basketball, men's lacrosse and baseball teams play in a postseason tournament in 2011-12.

But the baseball breakthrough has surpassed any earlier achievement. "It has set the bar,'' football lineman Michael Bamiro said, "that literally we all can get it done'' on a national scale. "We see that from the baseball team. So we know what to expect from ourselves.''

The football team made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs, where it lost by seven points to top-ranked Sam Houston State, which wound up losing to North Dakota State in the national championship game.

Janine Hillier of the women's lacrosse team added, "All the positivity that's going on at Stony Brook right now encourages all the athletes and students to work harder. It makes me think of what coach [Joe] Spallina says: 'Winning is an all-the-time thing, not a sometime thing.' ''

And men's lacrosse player Bryan Judge said, "I think every team is playing off each other and trying to compete to go further and further. I think it will be good for all the teams.''

The men's lacrosse team reached the 2010 national quarterfinals and would have made the Final Four if not for a one-goal loss to Virginia. The 2012 team lost to Johns Hopkins in the NCAA Tournament's first round.

The men's soccer team lost to Monmouth on penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The women's lacrosse team nearly advanced, too, but lost to Albany by two goals in the America East Tournament championship game.

Women's tennis and cross country also won conference titles. Individually, Lucy Van Dalen became the university's first individual national champion when she won the mile in the NCAA Indoor Track Championships. Van Dalen recently was named to the London Olympics for her native New Zealand.

At Stony Brook, merely qualifying for the NCAA Tournament no longer is the main objective. Baseball broke through the one-and-done barrier usually faced by mid-major programs. "Seeing them on a national scale now, where we have missed the opportunity twice in a row, all you can do is be on their side,'' said basketball player Lenny Hayes, whose team lost in the America East championship game the past two seasons and reached the NIT for the second time in three years in 2011-12. "It's not about, 'Darn, I wish that was me and we should have been there.' It's more like, 'I'm so happy they did this.' How quickly it's progressed, it's exciting. They definitely deserve it. The team speaks for itself. Now people can see Stony Brook is for real. We're a force to be reckoned with.''

Men's basketball coach Steve Pikiell said his team and others will benefit from the publicity garnered by baseball. "I don't see how it cannot have an effect on everyone's program,'' he said. "It's awesome. My recruits were following it. It just gives you more leverage when you are [recruiting]; they can do it. It gives your school credibility, our athletic department credibility. It's just a great story for all our athletes, more so our university. We're 12 years Division I. Florida State has been to 15 College World Series; we haven't even been Division I 15 years. It's unbelievable a place like ours could come so far in any sport.''

Baseball coach Matt Senk, whose team went 6-4 in the tournament after going 1-6 in three previous trips to the regionals, said he does not expect his team's first trip to the College World Series to be its last. "I think that after going through this, this is a lofty goal, the loftiest of goals, '' he said. "But I'm not coming away from this thinking this is once-in-a-lifetime or unattainable. In fact, I'm thinking the opposite. We're feeling that in the sport of baseball, we can continue to work hard and make some noise on the national scene.''

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