After defeating LSU in the deciding game of the Baton Rouge super regional on Sunday, the Stony Brook University baseball team became the first America East squad ever to advance to the College World Series.
"There were just so many different emotions that were going through my body and my mind," said Stony Brook coach Matt Senk. "I just think that if I had to sum it up in one word, it was just euphoria. To see what we had accomplished and guys all running out to the dogpile, it was just an absolutely euphoric moment."
Yet accomplishing this feat within its conference is not the main reason why Stony Brook has acquired so much attention. Rather, it was a different first that propelled this team into the spotlight -- the first time many people had heard of the Seawolves.
Although Stony Brook has improved since initially becoming a Division I program in 2000, the squad has very little name recognition outside of the Northeast. Nonetheless, the Seawolves have taken the last two America East regular-season titles -- the only two in their history -- and with their 52 wins so far this season, have beaten the record set last year for most wins in program history by 10.
Throughout this period, though, the Seawolves have averaged attendance numbers in the 200s, a stark contrast to the record-breaking numbers that they saw during the Baton Rouge super regional last weekend.
This lack of national attention, however, is not a reflection of just Stony Brook. Although teams from warmer climates have consistently performed in the national spotlight for the ultimate titles, teams in the Northeast have been relatively silent.
"When they changed the format where it used to be true regionals, there was always going to be somebody coming from the Northeast region," Senk said. "Then when they changed the format several years ago, that no longer took place. There was an advantage to warmer-weather climates and schools and conferences. But there's been some rule changes within the NCAA that have definitely leveled the playing field."
When it faces off against UCLA on Friday, Stony Brook will be the first team from the Northeast to make it to the CWS since the University of Maine in 1986. It will also be the first team from New York to qualify since St. John's did so in 1980.
"What has hopefully happened this year with us and Kent State from Ohio getting into the College World Series, hopefully, there's going to be a change and some parity now in college baseball," Senk said.
The top 10 teams with the most appearances in the CWS all come from the South or the West Coast, with Texas leading the way with 34 appearances. Meanwhile, Maine has the most appearances out of any team from the Northeast with seven.
The attention that the Seawolves have received is a unique experience for the team that is made up of mostly New York residents.
"[Thursday] was a practice day, but it was amazing just the amount of interest over at the ballpark," Senk said. "There were big crowds and there were autograph sessions, and we went for an hour and we still couldn't sign everything that people wanted us to sign. It is already an incredible event that our guys are totally enjoying."
Despite the magnifying glass that Stony Brook now finds itself under, Senk said that if last weekend's games against LSU were any indication, the pressure from larger crowds and fans were a benefit to his team.
"We have two things we can do," Senk said. "We can either be intimidated by it or be appreciative, and make it a positive for us. Last weekend we made it a positive, and I don't see any reasons why we won't make it a positive this weekend."