The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team entered the top 25 national ranking by the NCBWA, and was in the first official NCAA Regional ranking, released Wednesday.
After winning seven of their previous eight games through Sunday, the Spartans soared to a 28-10 overall record and sole possession of first place in the East Coast Conference standings. The individual accolades came quickly, as Giovanni Dingcong was named ECC Player of the Week and Scott Hannon took Rookie of the Week honors, while pitcher George Navadel was awarded honorable mention on Monday.
That same day, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association (NCBWA) released its regional rankings, which saw STAC holding the number three slot in the East, a spot they have occupied for most of the season.
Tuesday's NCBWA National Top 25 Poll included a new entrant, as the Spartans - who were one ranking point off the list a week ago - elevated into a tie for the #24 rank in the country, level with Belmont Abbbey College of North Carolina and a few points behind Cal-Poly Pomona.
On Wednesday, the poll that matters the most was released as the NCAA posted its first official Regional Rankings of the season. That list also displayed St. Thomas Aquinas as holding the #3 position, trailing only Southern New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce, just ahead of conference rival Molloy.
With less than two weeks to play in the regular season, the NCAA Rankings carry additional significance as the Spartans look for their fourth straight trip to the 48-team NCAA Division II National Tournament. Six teams from the East will participate in the annual regional, with three bids being captured automatically by the tournament champions of the ECC, Northeast-10, and Central Atlantic Collegiate Conferences. The other three will be awarded on an at-large basis to the highest ranking teams at the conclusion of tournament play.
St. Thomas Aquinas earned its first NCAA bid by winning the ECC Tournament in 2013, and duplicated that feat the following season. That 2014 season remains a benchmark, as STAC shook off an opening loss to win the East Championship and sweep into the national Elite Eight in Cary, North Carolina. Last season, STAC took its third consecutive automatic bid by winning the conference crown, and advanced to the final game in the regional before falling just short against Wilmington.
This week, the Spartans have already improved their record to 29-10 on the strength of Monday's 11-5 win over Nyack. They face a big test on Thursday against #5 East Ranked Felician University at the newly-renamed Palisades Credit Union Park (formerly Provident Bank Park) before playing a four-game weekend conference series against the University of Bridgeport.
- Steve Balsan, St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information
- Photo by Dorice Arden