Spartans Sweep Into First; Baseball Team Tops CW Post, 9-5, 7-0
In a showdown between teams tied for first in the East Coast Conference, the St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team took a pair from C.W. Post, 9-5 and 7-0. Matt Marotta and Eric Cooper picked up victories for the Spartans. With the two victories, the Spartans improve to 22-10 overall and 9-1 in conference play, while Post falls to 15-13, 7-3. St. Thomas Aquinas has now won 11 of its last 13 games overall.
Game one was a battle between two of the conference's best pitchers, but both teams got on the board early. Post's Tom Toland singled in an unearned run off Matt Marotta in the top of the first, and STAC answered in the bottom half as George Wargo's sac fly against Bo Budkevics brought in Nick Barbalato to tie the score.
The Spartans came in with an aggressive approach against the Pioneer righty, who entered the game with a 0.68 season earned run average. STAC added a pair in the third, with Barbalato's bunt single bringing in Frank Salerno and a Joe Antenucci grounder bringing in Barbalato. Post would rally to tie in the top of the fourth, adding another pair of unearned markers. A throwing error on catcher George Wargo on an attempted sacrifice bunt led to a pair of runs coming home on sac flies.
STAC would take charge for good with three more runs in the bottom of the fourth on four hits, sparked by a towering triple off the right field wall by Efrain Bautista, bringing in Derek Hirsch and Mike Russo. After the long ball, Salerno followed with small-ball, as his perfect bunt down the third base line scored Bautista to make the score 5-2.
Meanwhile, Marotta would settle in nicely, allowing just the three unearned runs on two hits through his first six innings, and his teammates continued the offensive onslaught in their half of the sixth. With the bags jammed and two down, Barbalato's drive into the right-center gap cleared the bases and gave the Spartans an 8-2 cushion. Post would add a pair in the ninth on three hits, but Marotta would close the door to run his record to 5-0, while Budkevics was touched for nine earned runs on 13 hits in his six-inning complete-game stint, to fall to 4-3. Barbalato went 3-for-4 with four RBI to lead the STAC attack, with Salerno and Stanley Susana recording two hits each.
With the Spartans hoping to improve on their one-game conference lead, the visitors hurt their own cause with a tough time in the field in the very first inning. STAC's Eric Cooper had no trouble in the top of the first, but his counterpart James Stone could not say the same in his half.
Salerno would lead off on an infield hit that wasn't fielded cleanly by shortstop Keith Herring. One out later, Salerno would steal his conference-leading 24th base in 27 attempts. He would score when Antenucci's single was booted by left fielder Vincent Iacono. Wargo followed with a grounder to Herring at short, earning a hit when the throw sailed wide on what would have been a close play, the error allowing Antenucci to score. Two more Spartans would reach in the inning on errors charged to Herring, and an Andrew Hancsak walk with bases loaded made the score 3-0.
Once again the bases were juiced and this time Hirsch would answer the call with a double to the gap in left. This time is was Herring who helped his team avert further disaster as two runs scored but his perfect throw to the plate nailed a diving Hanscak. Herring suffered an undisclosed injury on the play and was removed from the game, putting an end to a frustrating game before an inning was complete. When all was said and done, STAC would emerge with a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Cooper would know what to do with his advantage, scattering just five singles over his six innings of work and only allowing one Pioneer runner as far as third base. STAC tacked on two in the fourth on the strength of a Barbalato sac fly, and Salerno stealing home on the back half of a double-steal, his second of the game.
Ken Frawley pitched a scoreless seventh to finish the afternoon, as Cooper improved to 2-1 while Stone fell to 2-2. Salerno, Antenucci, and Hirsch had two hits each for STAC, while Gabriel Santos had a pair for Post.
After having Easter Sunday off, these teams will complete their three-game conference series on Monday, April 9, at CW Post. The Spartans return home the following day, Tuesday, April 10, for another ECC matchup when Queens College pays a call to Provident Bank Park, with first pitch slated for 3:30 pm. STAC will then play a "road" game at PBP with Dominican College serving as the home team on Thursday, April 12, with the next two games being official home contests at "The Bank," a non-conference tilt with Queens on Friday the 13th before welcoming Caldwell College on Sunday, April 15.
Remember, if you can't make it to the park you can follow the Spartans in real time for every home game and select road contests by clicking on the "Live Stats" link (where available) on the team schedule.
East Coast Conference Standings (thru 4/7/12)
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