The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team opens the 2016 NCAA Division II Tournament East Regional against Molloy College on Thursday night in Rindge, NH. The Spartans enter the regional with a 35-15 overall record and as the #3 seed, taking on #6 Molloy in a 7:00 pm start.
This is the fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Spartans, the first earned via at-large bid. In 2014, STAC took its first-ever Regional Championship, while last season the Spartans advanced to the final game before falling to Wilmington.
With the expansion of the National Tournament to 56 teams, the East Region benefits from an extra team this year, making the field seven teams for the first time. Of those seven, four are from the East Coast Conference - the first time for that feat. In addition to Molloy, ECC Tournament Champs Dowling captured the #7 seed, with Bridgeport claiming the #5. Felician University grabbed the #4 slot as CACC Champions, while the top dogs remain as Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire, respectively, from the NE-10.
The Match-Up - #3 STAC and #6 Molloy (31-21) have met five times in the past two weeks, with the Spartans winning three. In a preview of Thursday's likely match-up. ECC Pitcher of the Year Matt Kostolos outdueled Lions' ace Ronald Bauer in a spectacular 2-0 decision on May 9, in a contest that was scoreless through seven innings. While STAC took three of four in the season series, Molloy gained revenge, as a late rally ended STAC's title reign with a 3-2 win in the ECC Tournament on May 13.
The Tournament - The NCAA Baseball Tournament is a double-elimination format, with teams requiring two losses to be eliminated. Game 1 is at 11:00 am Thursday, featuring #4 Felician against #5 Bridgeport, followed at 3:00 pm by #2 Southern New Hampshire vs #7 Dowling. As the top seed and Tournament host, #1 Franklin Pierce earns a bye and will play in tournament Game 5 at 3:00 pm Friday.
What's Next - If STAC wins Tournament Game 3 on Thursday night, they play in Tournament Game 6 on Friday night at 7:00 pm against the winner of Game 2 (Southern New Hampshire vs. Dowling).
If the Spartans lose Thursday night, they will face elimination in a quick turnaround in Tournament Game 4 against the Game 2 loser at 11:00 am Friday.
STAC Facts - No strangers to close contests, the Spartans have posted an amazing 18-4 record in games decided by two runs or less. They are also 23-2 in games they are leading or tied after six innings.
Known for their hitting prowess, the Spartans were just third in conference batting average this season but they took up the slack on the hill, with a sparkling league-leading 2.94 team ERA - nearly one full run better than the closest competitor (Molloy, 3.84). Ace Matt Kostolos (7-0, 1.41 ERA) and George Navadel (12 saves) have held the fort.
What's At Stake - The winners of each of the eight regions will advance to the NCAA Division II Tournament Championships, held annually in Cary, North Carolina.
2016 NCAA Tournament East Regional Schedule
Thursday, May 19 Day 1 Video Link
Game 1: (4) Felician vs. (5) Bridgeport -- 11 a.m.
Game 2: (2) Southern New Hampshire vs. (7) Dowling -- 3 p.m.
Game 3: (3) St. Thomas Aquinas vs. (6) Molloy -- 7 p.m. Live stats/box score
Friday, May 20
Game 4: Game 2 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser -- 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 5: Game 1 Winner at (1) Franklin Pierce -- 3 p.m.
Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner -- 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 21
Game 7: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Loser -- 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 8: Game 6 Loser vs. Game 1 Loser -- 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner -- 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 22
Game 10: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner -- Noon (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 9 Loser -- 3:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Monday, May 23
Game 12: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner -- Noon
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* -- 40 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if Game 11 Winner wins Game 12.