Spartan Rally Stuns Molloy; Four in Ninth Spark 7-6 Victory
Andrew Hancsak's walk-off sac fly capped a four-run ninth-inning rally as the St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team stunned Molloy College, 7-6 at Provident Bank Park. Frank Salerno had two hits and drove in four runs in the improbable victory as the Spartans improve to 6-1 in East Coast Conference play and 19-9 overall. Molloy fell to 9-17, 2-5 after dropping two of three to STAC, including yesterday's twin-bill split on Long Island.
Molloy appeared on the verge of victory, snapping a 3-3 tie with their own rally, plating three runs in the top of the ninth before STAC's heroics. Today's stirring comeback only added to the day's earlier news, which saw St. Thomas Aquinas retain the #4 ranking the the East Region from d2baseballnews.com, and move up to the #5 slot from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
The first six innings of the contest featured an old-fashioned pitchers' duel, as STAC's Joe Ferrara and Molloy's Jason Lembo each allowed just one run. The visitors broke on top in the third when Greg Walsh's two-out triple brought around Carlos Guzman. The Spartans answered in the fifth when Efrain Bautista tripled and came in on a Salerno sacrifice fly.
Things would open up in the seventh as Molloy grabbed the lead when Joe Liberatore scored on a double-play, and Walsh would strike again with two out, doubling in Guzman. STAC would answer quickly, as Salerno's single in the bottom half scored Bautista and Andrew Hanscak to tie the score at 3-3.
It would remain that way until the fireworks in the ninth as Molloy would get to reliever Ken Frawley, who had replaced Ferrara in the seventh and worked a scoreless eighth. A bunt single and a pair of walks loaded the bases, and Carmine Pellechia's two-RBI single broke the deadlock. A Ray McCourt single brought in an insurance run, but it would prove to not be enough for the Lions as Jon Scott came out of the Spartan bullpen to prevent further damage.
Molloy reliever John Jarosz would find trouble of his own in the bottom half, hitting Bautista with a pitch to lead off. Salerno would promptly bring him in with his fourth RBI of the day, a double into the gap to make the score 6-4. Nick Barbalato walked to put the tying runs on base and summon Angel Beltre from the Lion pen. Beltre would only add fuel to the fire, however, walking Joe Antenucci to load the bases, and issuing another pass to George Wargo, forcing in a run to make the score 6-5 and moving the tying and winning runs into scoring position with still none out.
Mike Russo proceeded to more than get his job done as his sac fly to deep center not only brought in Barbalato to tie the score, but it also advanced both Wargo and Antenucci. Stanley Susana was issued an intentional walk to set up the double play but it was all for naught, as Hancsak's fly ball to center was deep enough to score Antenucci and set off a Spartan celebration, earning their eighth win in nine games.
Scott picked up the win in relief by finishing off the ninth for STAC to improve to 2-0, while Beltre took the loss for Molloy. Salerno, Wargo and Bautista recorded two hits each for the Spartans, while Guzman rapped out three hits and scored three runs for the Lions.
The Spartans will continue their ECC schedule at Mercy College on Wednesday, April 4, before returning to Provident Bank Park for a big East Region showdown with LeMoyne College on Thursday, April 5, with game time at 4:00 pm. CW Post will then pay its first call to "The Bank" on Saturday, April 7, for a conference double-header, with first pitch scheduled for 12:00 noon.
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.