Spartans Fall in ECC Opener as Bridgeport Rallies, 6-3

Spartans Fall in ECC Opener as Bridgeport Rallies, 6-3

The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team lost the opener of the East Coast Conference Baseball Tournament, 6-3 against the University of Bridgeport at Dowling. STAC faces elimination against Molloy College Friday morning at 9:00 am. The Spartans fall to 35-16 with the loss, while Bridgeport improves to 25-20-1.

After sweeping through the tournament last season, STAC was in command early, with ace Matt Kostolos striking out the side and the Spartans scoring all of their runs in the home first. Bridgeport starter Ridge Ackerman walked Joseph Pena to start the rally, and with one out, Deven Del Priore reached on an infield hit.

Giovanni Dingcong singled in the first run and Nick Gargan, just back from a lengthy injury, belted a two run triple to give the regular-season champs a 3-0 lead. Perhaps the turning point of the game came when Gargan attempted to score on an errant pitch, but was caught at the plate. That would be the last of the Spartans' scoring for the day.

Bridgeport came up with a pair of big runs in the second, starting with Casey McCone reaching on a leadoff error. With one out, Alnaydo Rodriguez doubled the runners into scoring position, and both came in on Tyler Gambardella's double to cut the gap to 3-2.

Reliever Denis Lyman entered the game with two on and two out in the home second and was dominant in keeping his squad in the game until they plated the tying run in the eighth.

ECC Pitcher of the Year Kostolos was strong, fanning 13 batters, but Casey Oulette led off with a double and McCone's sac fly drew the game even to send it to extra innings. The Purple Knights staged the winning rally in the 10th, with Jose Negron's leadoff single sparking the outburst.

Darren Grabowski's sac bunt attempt went for an infield hit, and Oulette walked to load the bases. Ben Torres broke the tie with a two-RBI single, and the Purple Knights added an insurance run on a wild pitch.

Lyman worked 8.1 scoreless relief innings to take the win, while George Navadel was tagged the loss for the Spartans, who managed just six hits on the afternoon, three after the first inning.

The loser of tomorrow morning's contest will be eliminated while the winner will advance to the 3:00 game, meeting the loser of the noon contest between Bridgeport and Dowling in another elimination contest.

- Steve Balsan, St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information

- Photo by Dorice Arden