Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stony Brook Stuns N.C. State - Baseball America

Myrtle Beach S.C.—Stony Brook surged to an early 6-0 lead and sophomore righthander Tyler Johnson made it stand up as the Seawolves kept their season alive with a 6-2 win against North Carolina State. The win was Stony Brook's first ever in a Division I regional, and they'll advance to play another elimination game at the Myrtle Beach Regional on Sunday afternoon.

One day after Stony Brook ace Nick Tropeano battled through eight innings against No. 4 national seed Coastal Carolina, the Seawolves got another superb effort on the mound. Johnson threw eight innings and fanned 10 hitters, while allowing just two runs on six hits against one of the country's more potent offenses.

Johnson was able to throw three pitches for strikes, and he said after the game that his changeup was the best it had been all year. When he wasn't striking out N.C. State's hitters, he was able to keep the ball on the ground effectively with his sinking fastball, inducing 10 groundouts to go with the whiffs.

"Going against an ACC team and striking out that many guys was definitely not easy," Johnson said. "They made it real hard on me right off the bat. But as always, throwing those three pitches for strikes and letting them put the ball in play really helped me accomplish my goal today."
The only inning Johnson faced serious trouble was the second, when his own throwing error on a pickoff attempt helped open the door for N.C. State's first run. The Wolfpack eventually loaded the bases for right fielder Drew Poulk, who hit a grand slam against the College of Charleston on Friday night. But Poulk grounded weakly to short, and the Wolfpack never seriously threatened again, managing just two more hits against Johnson before he was pulled after the eighth inning.

"(Johnson) kept the ball down," N.C. State coach Elliot Avent said. "Sinkerballers, changeup guys. Those are guys we've had trouble with all year. He's the one guy we didn't want to see."

While Johnson was shining for the Seawolves, the other major storyline of the day was N.C. State's decision to start freshman righthander Anthony Tzamtzis, who'd been a reliever all year. Tzamtzis has a power arm, but his command deserted him from the outset. The Seawolves, who were shut out yesterday by Coastal Carolina's Cody Wheeler, jumped on Tzamtzis for six runs on five hits in the top of the first. Tzamtzis didn't do himself any favors by hitting two batters and walking another.

Less than a week after making a run to the championship game of the ACC tournament, the Wolfpack is headed home without having used its second- and third-best starters, sophomore righty Cory Mazzoni and senior lefty Alex Sogard, in this regional. It's a disappointing ending to a bounce-back season for the Wolfpack, which missed regionals entirely last year after making it to super regionals in 2008. Avent said the Wolfpack needed to take the gamble in order to save Mazzoni and Sogard for two potential games on Sunday. Instead, the 'Pack won't be playing again until February.

"It's about you lose your first game, and pitching hasn't been the strength of our ballclub," Avent said. "We've been pitching better now down the stretch, but it hasn't always been the strength of our ballclub. We don't have eight or 10 arms that we're going to run at you. That's not been what's gotten us here. So, we made a decision. You've got to win four games now. We thought Tzamtzis was the guy. He's a velocity guy. Watching Stony Brook play yesterday, we thought velocity would beat them."

Stony Brook will play tomorrow afternoon against the loser of tonight's winners' bracket contest between top-seeded Coastal Carolina and No. 2 seed College of Charleston. The Seawovles will be heavy underdogs no matter which team they face, but they've shown over the last two days they're not intimidated by their competition here.