Canucks lead Seawolves into College World Series

Maxx Tissenbaum was a regular feature on the SkyDome JumboTron as a boy.

Maxx Tissenbaum was a regular feature on the SkyDome JumboTron as a boy.

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

TORONTO - If you were in the seats at the SkyDome in the late 1990s, you saw his picture.

This was before he helped the Stony Brook University Seawolves leave two Florida schools in awe to win the NCAA Coral Gables regional.

Before him being part of a New York Jets-Baltimore Colts Super Bowl-style upset, leaving the LSU Tigers and their fans shocked.

Seawolves second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum was often featured on the JumboTron as a youngster.

Tissenbaum was a regular in those cute cut-away crowd shots featured at every ball park.

Sheldon Taerk, a season ticket holder near the visitor’s dugout from Day 1 in 1977 throughout this season, would take his grandson Maxx to Blue Jays games.

Now, maybe some day down the road he’ll be up there again — with his own stats, batting average and low strikeout totals.

“I was on the JumboTron quite a bit,” said the SeaWolves cleanup hitter from Long Island, N.Y., before heading for the College World Series in Omaha with one of eight teams in the hunt for the NCAA title.

“I was the kid with curly brown hair, wearing my Jays cap, with my glove. Mom has plenty of pictures of me on the JumboTron around the house.”

Probably millions saw him.

Asked if he made faces for the camera or waved, the way it unfolds nightly at the Rogers Centre when people see themselves on the big board, he answers: “Not really ... I was always told I looked way too serious,” said Tissenbaum. “I was concentrating on learning what I wanted to do. I always had a love of the game.”

Now, coach Matt Senk’s Seawolves sit at the pinnacle of college sports: A Cinderella story, the lead item on ESPN’s Sports Centre Sunday night after eliminating LSU, previously undefeated in 12 years of post-season play.

“It’s like a No. 13 seed going to the Final Four in March Madness,” said former Orioles right-hander Ben McDonald, an ESPN analyst.

The Seawolves are going to Omaha with more wins than any other NCAA school thanks to the contributions of their four Canucks: America East conference rookie of the year, shortstop Cole Peragine of Belle Ewart, Ont.; right fielder Tanner Nivins of Kitchener; Brampton right-hander Jasvir Rakkar; and Toronto’s Tissenbaum.

Stony Brook (53-12) plays top-seeded UCLA Bruins (47-14) Friday at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, which had a crowd of 26,271 for last year’s championship game.

The Arizona Wildcats (43-17) face the Florida State Seminoles (48-15), the Kent State Golden Flashes (46-18) go against the Arkansas Razorbacks (44-20) and the two-time, defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks (45-17) face the Florida Gators (47-18) in the double- knockout tournament.

Stony Brook is the first metro-New York school to reach the College World Series since St. John’s in 1980 and the first from the Northeast since 1986.

• • •

The 2012 Seawolves, began the spring with a 3-2 win over the Alabama State Hornets in the Nicholls State Colonel round robin tourney, before 300 fans at Thibodaux, La.

Hitting clean-up, Tissenbaum singled, No. 5

hitter Nivins singled in a run and No. 7 hitter Peragine singled.

Peragine started 64 games, Tissenbaum 63 and Nivins 58, on the way to winning America East Conference beating Maine twice and Binghamton once to win a berth in the 64-team NCAA field.

The Seawolves stunned the Miami Hurricanes 10-2, lost 9-8 to Central Florida, beat Missouri State 10-7 and then had to beat Central Florida twice.

Rakkar pitched six innings allowing three earned runs, striking out six for the win in a 12-5 decision as Tissenbaum and Nivins each knocked in two runs.

“I had some starts earlier this spring,” said Rakkar, making only his third start. “My approach was the same: Pound the strike zone. I didn’t think about it being a big game. Just keep our team in it.”

All three hitters contributed in a 10-6 win to move Stoney Brook against LSU at the best-of-three super regional.

• • •

In the blue and yellow corner was LSU, which had sent 64 players to the majors, including all-stars Albert Belle, Alvin Dark, Brian Wilson, Joe Adcock, Paul Byrd, Brad Hawpe, Aaron Hill and Connie Ryan.

In red and black was Stony Brook, a top medical school with a first-class science curriculum and one major leaguer in Joe Nathan.

The Seawolves didn’t start playing Division I until 2000.

The opener of series drew 11,207 fans to Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

“LSU fans were screaming when I stepped in first time up,” said Nivins. “It’s tough to keep all your emotions in check.

“It was crazy, 10,000 screaming on every pitch,” said Peragine. “In the first few innings it was difficult to focus, then it became another ball game.”

Up 2-0 in the sixth, LSU’s Arby Fields worked a lead-off walk. A former two-sport star as an outfielder/running back for the Northwestern Huskies, the 5-foot-9, 205 pounder attempted to steal second. Peragine, all 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, took the throw, tagged Fields and was flattened.

“I saw the throw tail into the runner,” Peragine said. “I had two choices, get out of the way and let the ball go into the centre or give up the body.”

Peragine was slow getting up, but he went the distance.

Stony Brook led 2-1 heading into the bottom on the ninth, 3-2 into the bottom of the 10th and 4-3 in the bottom of the 11th.

LSU got a lead-off homer in the ninth to tie, a two-out homer in the 10th after the Seawolves left fielder overran a foul fly and Rakkar allowed a lead-off homer in the 11th to third-place hitter Mason Katz.

“I got behind (2-0) and had to throw a strike,” Rakkar said. “After that it was a matter of keeping us in the game, keeping it tied. I had to get the ball over. I still had a chance to give our team a chance to win.”

Rakkar recorded a strike out, issued a walk, then a two-out single before a fly out.

Peragine, who played for Scott Van de Valk and Thompson with the Terriers, thought it was “cool” that the Braves and Jays millionaires were watching the collegians battle.

Then, the skies opened and the game was postponed until the next day.

“They hadn’t lost a home playoff game in 12 years,” Rakkar said. “The atmosphere was amazing.”

Rakkar pitched for coach Dwayne Smith in Brampton, Shawn Lynn and Francis Cubos with the Canadian Thunderbirds and Danny Thompson’s Ontario Terriers.

Rakkar is 6-2, his ERA at 3.83. He’s walked 18 and struck out 37 in 47 innings.

• • •

“A bunch of us went to the mall and we were wearing our jackets,” said Peragine. “These little kids were walking by yelling, ‘Tiger Bait, Tiger Bait’ at us.’”

Peragine is hitting .314 with 11 doubles, six triples, 39 RBIs and an .822 OPS going 8-for-10 stealing bases.

LSU won Game 1 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the 12.

And 50 minutes later, Game 2 started.

Stony Brook won 3-1 to force a third and deciding game.

Tissenbaum was a teammate of Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie with the 2009 Canadian junior national team. The same Lawrie who watched with interest Saturday from the clubhouse in Atlanta.

When the LSU starter threw to first on a pick-off attempt, Lawrie yelled, “back!”

“I went with the team to the Dominican, but didn’t make the roster for the worlds in Edmonton.”

• • •

In the final, Tissenbaum doubled down the right- field line, putting Stony Brook up 2-1, and doubled in a pair with a drive to centre for a 6-1 lead.

Tissenbaum is not the prototypical clean-up hitter.

“Definitely not, our No. 3

hitter, Willie Carmona is ... 12 homers, 70 RBIs,” he said. “Our coach wanted someone behind Willie to get things started if he hits one out or to not strike out if he swings through it.”

In 265 at-bats Tissenbaum struck out eight times. How does the former JumboTron baby face who watched every move of Carlos Delgado, Orlando Hudson and Roy Halladay explain his ability not to strike out.

“Coach always talks having a wider stance and not taking a stride,” he said. “He tells us the only thing the other team had to do right on a strike you out is to throw a strike, but if we put the ball in play they have to do a lot of things right: Field the ball, make a good throw to first and catch the ball.”

Hitting .389 with 20 doubles, a triple, three homers, 51 RBIs and a .973 OPS, Tissenbaum played for coach Jack Brown in North York and again with the Toronto Mets before playing for Mets coach Jason Chee-Aloy.

Up 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the camera showed the Seawolves in the dugout. All were using an index finger and a thumb to make an O ... as in Omaha.

A fly ball, a ground ball to Tissenbaum and a strike out.

Cue the dash to the mound.

• • •

“I would have liked to share with people how we felt the moment we won,” said Nivins, who has received texts from former teammates he played with in grade five and six since the win.

“After the final out their fans cheered for us and made us do a lap of the field. They were such loyal fans but after that they gave us credit. LSU fought as hard as we did.”

The teams played 30 innings. LSU led only in the 12th of Game 1 with the walk-off win.

“I don’t think any of us really realized what we had accomplished until after we returned to Long Island,” Nivins said. “We’re shown teams from the Northeast can compete.

Nivins played for coaches Jeff Nicholl and Ken Schilling in Kitchener, then played for the Terriers under Derek Rothwell, Mike Tough, Tommy McKenzie and Thompson.

Nivins is hitting .304 with 11 doubles, three triples, two homers, 34 RBIs and a .780 OPS.

• • •

Tissenbaum was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round. He’ll either sign or head to Cape Cod this summer.

Rakkar was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 26th round. He’ll sign or play summer ball.

Nivins can return to Stony Brook next summer.

Peragine will play for the Vermont Mountaineers in the New England college summer league this summer.

But first there is Omaha.

Stony Brook is a long shot.

As usual.


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