A crowd of screaming fans awaited the Stony Brook University baseball team's return to Long Island Monday after an upset victory made them the first New York team in three decades to go to the College World Series.
"What's a Seawolf?" read the shirts of many, referring to the team nickname. "I'm a Seawolf."
On a campus better known for its Nobel Prize-winning scientists and prestigious research hospital, the baseball team's Cinderella ride into the national spotlight provided an unexpected new source of pride at the State University of New York's flagship institution.
"It actually puts us on the map," said Cameel Singh, 21 years old, a junior studying health sciences who showed up on the steps of the campus sports center to greet the team bus. "That's pretty good. And it just shows that we're more than just the sciences. We're good at athletics, we're a pretty well-rounded school."
The heroes' welcome came a day after the team defeated a college baseball powerhouse, the Louisiana State University Tigers, by a score of 7-2. The Seawolves are the first New York team to make it to the College World Series since 1980 and the first Northeastern school since 1986. Only four other New York teams have made it into the series. Not one has ever won.
Rep. Timothy Bishop, who represents Stony Brook and the rest of eastern Long Island in Congress, turned up to congratulate the Seawolves. "This doesn't happen to teams in the Northeast," Mr. Bishop said.
The team heads to Omaha, Neb., this week to compete with seven teams from traditional baseball power regions in the South and West. Their first opponent is UCLA on Friday.
Students, administrators and team members reveled in the attention, as the school's name became the third-highest trending search on google.
At the impromptu rally Monday, the university's president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., called the returning players "the team that shocked the world."
"We love the whole Cinderella story, you know, everyone underestimating us and then showing them what a Northeast team can do," said pitcher Frankie Vanderka, 20, a sophomore and Long Island native. "We just played how we played all year. We didn't change a thing."
Stony Brook has worked to burnish its athletic credentials over the past decade as it strives to emulate Stanford, a school recognized for both sciences and athletics, Dr. Stanley said.
Over the past year alone, Stony Brook teams in football, women's tennis, men's basketball, men's soccer and lacrosse have all won their conferences. Indoor track runner Lucy Van Dalen became an individual champion last year.
But the school has never had an NCAA championship team.
The baseball team joined the highest level of competition, NCAA Division I, in 2000 and has steadily improved. Last year, the Seawolves were the top-seeded team in the America East conference tournament, though they lost in the championship.
They remained an underdog on the national scene, though. When the Seawolves traveled to LSU's packed 10,000-seat stadium in Baton Rouge for a three-game series last week, fans dismissed them as "Tiger bait." LSU has won six baseball national championships.
"A lot of teams, they say, that go there are intimidated," said Seawolves baseball coach Matt Senk. "We wanted to make sure that we enjoyed the experience and fed off it in a positive way."
Even before knocking out LSU in the super regional championship, Stony Brook's baseball team had seven players picked in the Major League Baseball draft last week, including outfielder Travis Jankowski, who was ranked 44th overall.
Mr. Jankowski, 20, a junior from Lancaster, Pa., who is studying health sciences, said the prospect of making it to the College World Series seemed like a faint possibility when he was recruited to the school.
"I mean, it was kind of in the back of my mind," said Mr. Jankowski. "But it was always kind of a dream, you know?"