story by Steve McCarthy
photos by Rick Heath
July 20, 2010
Nick Tropeano emerged as a leader this spring for the America East Conference champion Stony Brook University baseball team, which welcomed 13 newcomers. The sophomore starting pitcher was anything but an unlikely source.
If baseball had not worked out for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander from West Islip, NY, he had a backup option as a football quarterback. But baseball is working out.
Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk entrusted Tropeano with the game ball for the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional opener against top-seed Coastal Carolina. Tropeano allowed just three runs over eight innings, but the Seawolves ran into the Chanticleers’
ace, who dealt a six-hit shutout in the 6-0 victory. Stony Brook beat North Carolina State before falling again to Coastal Carolina in the double-elimination round.
“I’m glad that my coach gave me the opportunity to throw,” Tropeano said. “Despite losing, our whole team battled the whole game. Definitely a great experience and I hope to do it every single year.”
Senk has shown an eye for quality arms in his 19 years at the helm. Minnesota Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan wore the Stony Brook red, white, and blue in the 1990’s. Tropeano’s collegiate numbers are comparably eye-popping.
As a freshman he made the America East All-Rookie team. Four of his eight starts were complete games and he averaged nearly eight strikeouts per-outing. He spent last summer with the Riverhead Tomcats of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, where he was named the league’s top prospect, going 7-3 with a 1.61 earned run average and earning the pitching Triple Crown.
Coming into this year, Tropeano had lofty goals not just personal, but for the young Seawolves club. He and classmate Tyler Johnson would anchor the pitching staff.
“We were the workhorses,” Tropeano said. “Our coach kind of told us that from the end of our freshman year, that he was kind of depending on us.”
Tropeano logged 99 and two-thirds innings while Johnson worked 93 and a third. They combined for 18 wins and 187 strikeouts. Tropeano went 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA and seven more complete games. He was named the America East co-Pitcher of the Year.
Tropeano’s first-year stats gained the attention of Mike Roberts, father of Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts and field manager of the Cape Cod Baseball League’s Cotuit Kettleers. Roberts offered Tropeano a contract for this summer and even made him the opening day starter.
Tropeano went seven and two-thirds innings in his first start as a Kettleer and struck out eight Wareham Gatemen. Despite carrying an 0-3 record after six starts, he has allowed three runs or fewer four times and gone eight innings twice. He ranks fourth in the Cape League with 35 strikeouts in 37 and two-thirds innings and has issued just 13 walks.
“I feel like after my first three starts I definitely had a better feeling of the hitters,” Tropeano said. “My last two starts I’ve been working on some things and it’s been paying off for me. I’m not getting the wins, but I’m going late in innings.”
As the summer progresses, so has the attention Tropeano has gained from Major League Baseball scouts. Tropeano will be eligible for selection next June, and knows the difference a summer on the Cape can make in one’s draft stock.
“I’m more excited than ever,” Tropeano said. “This is my opportunity and I’m just going to keep working hard and hopefully my hard work pays off.”
Tropeano complements an 88-90 mile per hour heater with a changeup and devastating breaking ball. He has matched up with Team USA selection Matt Barnes (UConn), and Cape League strikeout leader Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech) twice.
“Just having one good summer here is huge,” Tropeano said. “Scouts see that you can get out these talented hitters and you learn how to pitch.”
At his Long Island school of more than 24,000 students, Tropeano stands out not only due to his tall and lanky frame. On the Cape he is making a name for himself among college baseball’s best.
“I always told myself that’s where I want to be. That’s where I want to get to,” Tropeano said. “I’m here, and I’m just grateful for it.”