Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tropeano, SBU in midst of finest season (Newsday)

By MIKE GAVIN  michael.gavin@newsday.com

Stony Brook University baseball pitcher Nick Tropeano.
Photo credit: Daniel Goodrich | Stony Brook University baseball pitcher Nick Tropeano.
With a winning program beneath him, a strong defense behind him and a bright future ahead of him, Nick Tropeano took a moment to look around him.
He stood on the turf during the team's first practice at Joe Nathan Field, the construction of which had displaced the Stony Brook baseball team all season, and admired the sights:
A mound, which the junior pitcher will take Friday with a 10-1 record and 1.94 ERA, looking to set Stony Brook's single-season record for pitching wins.
A field, which will boast speedy outfielders and sure-handed infielders, comprising arguably the best-fielding team in the nation in terms of fielding percentage.
A home, which will house the best team in the America East Conference and one of the best in the Northeast.
With Saturday's 4-1 and 8-3 victories at Binghamton that completed a three-game sweep, Stony Brook improved to 37-10, breaking the university's single-season record of 36 wins set in 1999 while in Division II.
"The reputation here has always been a winning history, but over the last two years, we have become a dominant Northeast program," Tropeano said. "From now on, people aren't going to be like, 'Who's Stony Brook?' "
Should those people forget, Stony Brook is the team that won two of the last three America East titles and earned its first NCAA Division I Tournament victory last season. The program, consistently good over the years, now is getting consistently better.
"We have a great core of guys and I feel like our hard work is paying off," Tropeano said. "This is one of the greatest teams I've ever been a part of. I think if we keep working hard, we can actually do some damage in the tourney."
Tropeano has been causing plenty of damage to the averages and egos of batters he's faced since his days at West Islip High School, where he was an All-Long Island selection and led the Lions to a county championship.
As a Stony Brook sophomore, Tropeano was named America East co-Pitcher of the Year after going 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA with a conference-best 106 strikeouts.
Over the summer, Tropeano pitched in the Cape Cod League and threw 62/3 hitless innings in a 6-0 win to help his team clinch the league championship. Stony Brook coach Matt Senk called that experience invaluable to Tropeano's progression this season, and the College Baseball Hall of Fame named him one of 25 finalists for Pitcher of the Year.
"Once he got through his freshman year, you could just tell that with more physical maturity, he was someone who was destined for great things," Senk said. "And that's exactly what happened."
Joining Tropeano on the front end of the rotation is Tyler Johnson, 8-2 with a 1.84 ERA. The defense surrounding them had a .984 fielding percentage entering the weekend, trailing only the University of San Francisco for best in the nation.
Pitching and defense may be the foundation for the Seawolves' success, but they also are hitting .321 as a team. Last year's America East Rookie of the Year, Hempstead product Willie Carmona, leads the team with a .362 average. He has a team-high six home runs, one more than Centereach's Ste- phen Marino.
That combination has provided Stony Brook the opportunity to put the finishing touches on the program's winningest season this weekend at Joe Nathan Field, which will host its first game Friday when Stony Brook faces Albany in its final series of the regular season.

"Schools down south and out west didn't really know about us until we went out there and played," Carmona said. "The better we get, the more competition we play, the more teams we beat, the more people are going to notice the success that we are having."