OMAHA, Neb. -- If Stony Brook is going to rebound from its 9-1 loss to UCLA in the opener of the College World Series, the first order of business will be for starting pitcher Brandon McNitt to avoid issuing walks to a Florida State lineup averaging 8.8 runs per game in NCAA Tournament play.
Three Seawolves pitchers gave up eight walks to the Bruins, violating one of the principal tenets in coach Matt Senk's playbook. "As soon as you walk somebody, you take a peek in the dugout and he's flipping out," McNitt said Saturday. "We could be up by 10 runs, and it's still one of those things he emphasizes. Especially leadoff walks and two-out walks are the worst. He just wants you to go after guys and attack them and don't let up."
McNitt got knocked around in a regional loss to Central Florida two weeks ago but came back with a strong effort in Game 1 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional at LSU, allowing only an unearned run and three hits in seven innings against the Tigers. He left with a 2-1 lead that the Seawolves eventually lost, but pitching well in a tough environment was a confidence-booster.
"If I can carry that LSU game into this game, I'll continue to go right after guys," McNitt said. "If they're going to beat me, they're going to beat me hitting the ball."
In Baton Rouge, the Seawolves faced a partisan crowd of 11,000, but they are the darlings of an Omaha crowd of more than 20,000 that loves the underdog. McNitt said the celebrity treatment proved a bit disconcerting before the UCLA game, but his strength is his composure.
"We really came into that last game not focused at all," McNitt said. "We didn't play very good. Nobody said anything, but you could obviously see everybody was caught up in all the attention. Back at home, we don't get this at all, so having the whole stadium rooting for us is a pretty big deal. It's a different environment, but now that we've got the first game out of the way, we'll be all right."
Stony Brook catcher Pat Cantwell said the Seawolves' starting pitchers are not the type to blow the ball past batters and pile up strikeouts. They rely on location.
"We're going to have to use both halves of the plate, and he's going to have to throw his breaking ball for strikes,'' Cantwell said of McNitt. "As always, he's going to have to make a big pitch in a certain spot. If he can do that, I think our bats are going to be ready to go. Brandon is just going to go out and do his thing. If he does, I'm confident we're going to be there at the end."