- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Stony Brook’s baseball team has piled into buses and hit the road for home games all season.

It’s certainly been a strange and successful year for the nomadic Seawolves (34-10), a resilient bunch while their ballpark received a facelift. Show ‘em a field, and they’ll play on it _ and probably win, too.

“We really have been bouncing around, but we all take it in stride,” sophomore infielder and reliever William Carmona said. “When it all comes down to it, though, it doesn’t matter where we play.”

That’s because the America East-leading Seawolves are on the verge of setting the school record for victories, just three from topping the 1999 team that won 36 games while still playing at the Division II level. Coach Matt Senk’s squad has also thrown two no-hitters _ the first in the program’s history _ and is tied for the Division I lead in fielding percentage.

“Not having a field obviously wasn’t too pleasant, but we didn’t think about it too much,” junior right-hander Nick Tropeano said. “We all talked and said, ‘Hey, it’s baseball, so let’s keep taking as many groundballs and flyballs as we can, no matter where it is.’ Despite the adversity, we’ve overcome it.”

It appears the Seawolves can finally settle in at home now and leave the bus rides for actual road trips. Stony Brook practiced for the first time Tuesday on Joe Nathan Field, named for the former Seawolves shortstop and Minnesota Twins All-Star closer who donated $500,000 to the program.

“It’s hard to get guys to go to that school,” Nathan said before the Twins’ game against the Detroit Tigers in Minnesota on Wednesday. “You bring them in and show them the (old) field and that’s not going to be something that impresses them. So hopefully this field is something that helps a player’s decision-making process to go there.”

The team expects to play there during its last regular-season series next weekend, and hopes to host the conference tournament if it maintains its hold on first place.

“It’s definitely going to make an improvement,” said Nathan, who gets regular updates on the team from athletic director Jim Fiore. “The players were pumped to get on it. Anytime you get a new toy, you’re excited to play with it. Hopefully it brings excitement and only greater things to come.”

The team hoped the field, which has a FieldTurf surface, would be ready to start the season. But a lousy winter and spring in the Northeast delayed the completion and sent the Seawolves looking for alternative locations for home games. Practice was limited to the turf inside the school’s new track and indoors on campus.

“We all made jokes about it and said it’s called ‘No Nathan Field,’” Carmona said with a laugh. “And then when we’re on a bus, we’re like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re playing at home today.’”

Despite all that, the Seawolves are 10-3 at “home”: 4-1 at Dowling College in Brookhaven, 3-0 at New York Tech in Old Westbury, 2-1 at the Baseball Heaven Sports Complex in Yaphank, and 1-1 at Adelphi in Garden City.

“I’ve never been around a more resilient group,” said Senk, in his 21st season at Stony Brook. “Whether it was another snowstorm or another batch of bad weather, whatever has come this group’s way, they haven’t complained or moaned. It’s just been, ‘Tell us where we have to be, coach, and let’s play.’”

The Seawolves, 15-2 in the America East and 2 1/2 games ahead of Binghamton, have been doing it with solid pitching, terrific defense and timely hitting.

“When we go out to the ballpark, we really expect to win,” Carmona said. “We just don’t expect to lose, ever.”

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