Stony Brook's night of firsts
Jankowski gets drafted minutes after Seawolves win Regional
It was not your typical Monday night for Stony Brook on June 4. It was a night of thrilling firsts that will leave lasting memories for the entire team, and one very special player – junior centerfielder Travis Jankowski.
With a 10-6 victory against UCF in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional on Monday, the Seawolves won their first NCAA Regional title to become just the third No. 4 seed to advance to the Super Regional round since the new tournament format was introduced in 1999.
Minutes after the monumental victory for the program, Jankowski was selected as the 44th pick overall by the San Diego Padres in the supplemental first round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He is Stony Brook’s first, first-round selection and only the second player from the America East Conference to accomplish the feat.
|June 1||Stony Brook 10, Miami (Fla.) 2|
|June 2||Central Florida 9, Stony Brook 8|
|June 3||Stony Brook 10, Missouri State 7|
|June 3||Stony Brook 12, Central Florida 5|
|June 4||Stony Brook 10, Central Florida 6|
“It was the best night of my life,” Jankowski said. “We come in as a No. 4 seed and win the regional out of the loser’s bracket and kind of shock the world – that was incredible.
"About 10 minutes after that we were about to get on the bus and I got the phone call from the Padres that they selected me. I was actually with my family in the parking lot and told them and we celebrated, and then I told my teammates and coaches. They went wild … it was almost like a second dog pile in the parking lot.”
“It was definitely not a slow Monday night for us,” head coach Matt Senk said. “It was phenomenal to have our players play well and show so much heart over the weekend. Then to have one our top players chosen in the first round … it was a moment that let everything shine through.”
Four years ago, Jankowski, a native of Lancaster, Pa., would have never expected to experience a night like Monday. Back then, Jankowski was more well-known for his football prowess as an all-state wide receiver for state champion Lancaster Catholic than his talents on the baseball field.
Collegiate football coaches were interested, but few baseball programs looked at Jankowski, and only one Division I school offered him a scholarship -– Stony Brook. He had caught the eye of assistant coach Joe Pennuchi at a showcase at Tropicana Field in Florida, who invited him for an official visit.
“The thing that jumped out at us was his overall athleticism, and specifically his speed,” Senk said. “He flat out could fly and he had an athletic build. A lot of what we have do being a 'mid-major' is judge a player’s projectability. We felt with his athleticism and speed and his projectable body he could be a special player.”
Jankowski immediately had a great connection with the coaches at Stony Brook, who he says are like father figures. And, with the advice of his high school baseball coach, he chose baseball over football.
“I was only about 170 pounds [in high school],” Jankowski said. “My high school baseball coach said I’d be playing guys in college that are 270 pounds, and they will probably crush you and you won’t last. He was pretty blunt with me and said if you want a professional career, I’d stick with baseball and not football. I took that to heart, and I guess I made the right decision.”
While Jankowski’s freshman season with the Seawolves was not exactly eye-popping – he batted .262 with 20 runs in 47 game and 23 starts – he was dedicated to improving in all aspects of the game.
In addition to adding about 20 pounds with the help of the program’s strength coach, Jankowski worked with the coaches to develop physically and mentally.
“I changed my swing after my freshman year, and after that I felt comfortable in the box,” Jankowski said. “The coaches also helped me with the mental aspect of the game, because that was the weakest part of my game my freshman year.”
“He needed to commit himself and work hard to make that happen,” Senk said. “His work ethic is the thing that really came through because without that he would have not come as far as he has.”
As a sophomore Jankowski batted .355 with 38 RBI, earning America East first-team all-conference honors. He then played summer ball for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Code League, batting .329 with 22 RBI and 15 steals and garnering the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
This year, Jankowski raised the bar another notch, batting .417 with 46 RBI and 36 steals while helping Stony Brook post a school-record 50 wins. He was named Louisville Slugger second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as well as America East Player of the Year, and hit .600 during the league tournament as the Seawolves won their second title in the last three years.
Jankowski may leadoff the Seawolves’ lineup, but he is not the only hot hitter in the lineup. Stony Brook is batting .336 as a team, which ranks second in Division I. Seven other starters are batting .308 or higher, including third baseman William Carmona, who is hitting .393 with 70 RBI, was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. In five regional tournament games, SBU exploded for 50 runs on 49 hits.
“People didn’t think we would go down there [to Miami] and win the regional,” Senk said. “We were a loose club, and when you’re a talented team and a loose team and feeling good and confident, you can be very dangerous.”
It would be tough to top Monday’s milestones, but the Seawolves will try when they travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU in a NCAA Super Regional. The best-of-three series begins June 8.
“It definitely helps give exposure to the program,” Jankowski said. “We are just trying to get our name on the map. Probably 75 percent of the people are asking where is Stony Brook, so maybe now they’ll know we’re from Long Island.”