The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team was eliminated from the East Coast Conference Baseball Tournament in a 6-4 loss to host Molloy College. After winning their previous 11 straight games, the Spartans dropped two on Saturday to fall to 38-15 overall, while Molloy advances to Sunday's tournament final against LIU Post, improving to 21-28 overall.
Including the win in Thursday's tournament opener, the Spartans had won all six meetings against Molloy this season, but the seventh proved to be the charm for the Lions. Angelo Navetta's RBI double and Kevin Podell's run-scoring single gave the hosts a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st off starter Anthony Morris.
After being shut out in the previous game, a 1-0 loss to LIU Post, the Spartans scored their first run of the day on Juan Adorno's two-out single in the top of the 3rd, trimming the gap to 2-1. The Lions answered with a pair in the 4th on Anthony Galanoudis' two-RBI single, and two more in the 5th opened the cushion to 6-1.
STAC chipped away with a run in the 7th on Joey Pena's two-out RBI hit, but still trailed by four before staging a rally in their final at-bat. Greg Dawber and Nick Lucchese started the frame with back-to-back singles, ending the day of Molloy starter Bobby Kelly, who worked eight strong innings.
Shawn Klotsche came from the Lions bullpen and recorded an out before Chris Ruiz drove in both runners with a single, cutting the margin to 6-4 and bringing the tying run to the plate. That was as close as the Spartans were to get, as Klotsche retired the final two batters to preserve the victory. With the loss, Morris fell to 8-1 on the season, while Pena's 5th-inning single was the 200th hit of his career at STAC.
The Spartans, ranked #2 in this week's East rankings, will now await word for their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday night. Though they will not receive the automatic qualifier awarded to the tournament champion, STAC is virtually assured its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance. Molloy and Post will square off for the ECC Tournament title on Sunday, with the winner earning the NCAA qualifier.
To watch the NCAA Division II Baseball Selection Show - scheduled for Sunday night at 10:00 pm Eastern - click this link and proceed to the appropriate link for the live selection show (link will become live before air time).