Seawolves do what so many others couldn’t at ‘The Box’

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Stony Brook upsets LSU 2012

Stunning. Stupendous. Stony Brook.

Take nothing away from the red-clad Seawolves from Long Island. They came into Baton Rouge and outplayed No. 7 national seed LSU this weekend, capped off by a 7-2 win in the third and deciding game of their super regional Sunday night.

As a result, Stony Brook is the first Northeast team to punch their ticket to the College World Series in more than a quarter-century – 1986, to be exact.

Coincidentally, that was also the first year that LSU hosted an NCAA baseball regional, beginning a quarter-century of dominance at home in the postseason.

The Tigers had advanced out of 16 of the last 17 regionals and super regionals played at Alex Box, including all five supers. When LSU finished off the Game 1 win early Saturday, its home postseason record improved to an amazing 80-14.

In rolling up that mark, the Tigers have knocked off some brilliant teams – the epic matchups with Southern California in 1990 and 1994 immediately come to mind. There are plenty of teams that have left Baton Rouge in late May and early June thinking they were good enough to get to Omaha, if only they had been sent elsewhere.

That is what makes this weekend’s result so surprising. Stony Brook did what so many others have tried, and failed, to do.

Coach Matt Senk’s Seawolves spent this weekend not only playing for each other, but for dozens of “geographically challenged” teams who have seen one of their peers reach the unreachable star.

And that star is Omaha, Nebraska.

Some will compare this to George Mason, Butler or VCU reaching the Final Four. But those teams all either made the NCAA Tournament or would have reached the field as an at-large selection. This is more like a No. 13 or 14 seed, whose only hope was to win their conference tournament, making it to their sport’s grandest stage.

Within minutes after the final pitch, “Congrats to Stony Brook” was trending on Twitter. Seawolves center fielder Travis Jankowski, the best prospect on a team that featured seven players taken in last week’s Major League Baseball draft, acknowledged as much in the postgame news conference.

Omaha loves to embrace new teams or teams with great followings. They love Louisiana baseball, as they welcome the many chances to see the Tigers play in the CWS, or when Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette finally made it.

No doubt, Stony Brook will be Omaha’s darlings over the next two weeks.

And LSU will be left to watch the CWS on television for a third straight year, thanks primarily to an offense that went stone cold at the worst time. How cold?

* After winning Game 1 in dramatic fashion, LSU had a grand total of six hits in the final two games of the series.

* After scoring three runs in the top of the first inning in last Sunday’s regional championship game against Oregon State, LSU went the next 39 innings without putting a “crooked number” on the scoreboard – that is, scoring more than one run in an inning.

Some will blame the Tigers themselves for the lack of offensive production. But credit is due to the pitching and defense of Stony Brook, a team that believed in itself from long before the first pitch of 2012 was thrown.

“I want the whole world to know who Stony Brook is,” third baseman Willie Carmona told CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s Phil Stanton for a preseason preview story. “Beat a big team, upset people and make it to a Super Regional, maybe the College World Series.”

Pack your bags, Seawolves. You’re headed to Omaha, and you’ve earned it.

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Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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