Nick Tropeano could have been center stage Friday night, preparing to cap his senior year on the mound for his Stony Brook Seawolves' clash against Pac-12 powerhouse UCLA in the 2012 College World Series opener.
Instead, the 21-year-old Tropeano planned to spend Friday evening in the Lexington Legends bullpen mentally preparing for his Sunday afternoon start against the South Atlantic League's Ashville Tourists.
Tropeano was drafted as a junior in the fifth round by the Houston Astros in 2011. He started 12 games at the end of the 2011 season for the Class A Tri-City ValleyCats in Troy, N.Y., and has been on the Legends' roster all of 2012.
"This is a great group of guys," Tropeano said about his Lexington Legends teammates. "We're having lots of fun and playing really well."
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Tropeano (5-4, 3.27 ERA) leads the Legends with 84 strikeouts, amassing a 4.67-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
"I feel real good on the mound. My goal every time is to just give my team an opportunity to win," Tropeano said. "I try to get two strikes within the first three pitches. Either they are going to put it in play or fall behind in the count. I use that to my advantage."
Stony Brook (52-13) began play in the College World Series Friday against UCLA (47-14). The Seawolves have been the surprise team of the tournament, coming out of the Coral Gables Regional hosted by Miami University and then defeating the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge to advance to Omaha, Neb.
"Not many people have heard of Stony Brook baseball, but they are considered top-notch in the Northeast," Tropeano said. "Now that they have struck into the national stage everyone is going to know who Stony Brook is."
The Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament by Stony Brook this season just as easily could have occurred last year during Tropeano's junior season. The Seawolves defeated conference foe Albany five times by a combined score of 43-10, before dropping a 4-1 decision in the America East Tournament semifinals.
"It hurt real bad because we knew we were the better team. It was just one of those days — we couldn't get across those runs," Tropeano said. "We were all unhappy about it. We felt we deserved to go to a regional and see what we could do at a national level."
Tropeano believes the Seawolves can make a deep run in Omaha.
"I think they have a really good shot of winning the whole thing. They have tremendous talent, and have six or seven players that got drafted this year," Tropeano said. "They're just going to keep grinding out and getting wins in Omaha."
Tropeano hopes to continue hearing about Stony Brook's historic College World Series run. He keeps up with the team while they are on the road, exchanging texts with many former teammates daily.
"They're just taking it all in at Omaha. It is great for them. It is the first time my team has won a super-regional and made it to Omaha," Tropeano said. "They are making history right now and I am proud of them. I don't know if I will be able to watch it, but I will try to keep getting updates."