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Lewis shines for Stony Brook Seawolves

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Happy Birthday, indeed.

Jonathan Lewis turned 19 last Thursday and he celebrated by doing something he’s done all year for the Stony Brook baseball team.

He pitched brilliantly.

The Fresh Meadows native struck out a career-high 12 in 6.1 innings in a 13-3 win over Hartford that helped keep the Seawolves in American East tournament contention.

And he’s only a freshman.

A year removed from being the most dominant pitcher in the PSAL at Francis Lewis, the 6-foot-1 righty has exceeded expectations at Stony Brook this year. He is 8-3 with a 3.50 earned run average and 86 strikeouts — all team highs.

“He’s a very confident kid and it shows in how he’s able to handle the tough situations and how he has been so consistent,” said Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk. “That’s really where his confidence shows, day in and day out we pretty much know what we’re going to get out of him.”

Even though there are more experienced pitchers on the staff, including senior Anthony Stutz, it is Lewis who gets the ball to pitch the all-important first game of a conference series.

Lewis, who earned co-Rookie of the Week honors last week for a second time this year, was also twice named America East Pitcher of the Week. He is the favorite to win America East Rookie of the Year.

“John has gotten better every time he’s taken the mound this year. I feel like John’s not even a freshman out there, I don’t consider him one,” said Stony Brook junior catcher Ed Kull, a former Archbishop Molloy standout. “I haven’t seen him back down from any challenge all year long and he’s faced some good schools. He gets better every single day. He’s going to be a special player here.”

Kull’s present for Lewis last Thursday was a solo home run, his sixth of the year, which put Stony Brook ahead, 4-0 in the third inning. The Seawolves scored seven runs in the fifth inning to give Lewis a comfortable 12-run lead.

If there was one negative for Lewis last Thursday, it was that he hung a curveball over the plate, giving up a three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to Ryan Waldron. It was the 11th home run Lewis allowed, which also is a team-high.

“If you make a mistake her,e they’ll hit it and I made a mistake and I let it get to me, which I shouldn’t, but I feel I pitched a pretty good game,” Lewis said.

The biggest adjustment from high school ball for Lewis was learning how to pitch. At Francis Lewis, where he was 14-1 with an ERA less than 1.00 his last two years, Lewis simply dominated batters.

“I think in high school I really just threw. I didn’t pitch and now I’m learning more that I have to mix my pitches, hit corners and spots,” said Lewis, who throws a lively fastball, as well as a curve and change up. “I can’t leave pitches up like that because they’re going to hit them. In high school you got away with that.”

Lewis, who was the PSAL Iron Horse Winner last year and was 8-1 with a 0.54 ERA, drew interest from about 40 colleges, including big-time Division I programs like Arizona, Notre Dame and Maryland, as well as George Washington and St. John’s.

But the opportunity to pitch right away is what drew him to Stony Brook.

“I had a lot of schools from all around who were interested in me, a lot of big-time schools, but I knew I might not get the opportunity that I get here, to pitch all the time,” Lewis said. Senk “told me that I would get my chance and I’m glad that he gave me the opportunity and I’m just trying to make the best out of it.”

Senk certainly didn’t lie. Lewis, who pitched five complete games, is also the leader in innings pitched with 79.2, including going 11 innings in a 7-6 13-inning win over Vermont on April 7. On that day Lewis allowed two earned runs and struck out 10 on 176 pitches.

If Lewis continues to improve over the next two years, Senk thinks there is a good chance Lewis again will draw a lot of attention, this time by major league scouts.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what he’s going to do next year and the year after that,” Senk said. “I think if he continues to develop, which I think he will, I think by the time he’s a junior we’re going to have to be recruiting other pitchers because more than likely he’s going to be a draftable kid and a rather high draft.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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