The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team closed the regular season with a 4-1 East Coast Conference win over Mercy College, as George Navadel set a career record with his 19th save. The Spartans, who captured the ECC Regular-Season Championship, take the #1 seed into Thursday's conference tournament, improving to 37-13 overall and 20-5 in conference play, while Mercy closed the campaign at 10-31, 4-21.
STAC continues its recent torrid pace, winning 16-of-17 games and going 28-4 in their last 32 overall, and the Spartans have outscored opponents by a 103-45 margin over their current winning streak.
LIU Post will carry the #2 seed into Thursday's openers, with the remaining two seeds to be determined between Bridgeport, Molloy and Queens. Bridgeport and Queens will conclude the regular-season with a Monday double-header that will solidify the playoff field.
Before the game, St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated Senior Day with administrators and family members joining players in their final home game at Palisades Credit Union Park, with honorees including Sam Vincenzo, Rosario Gaggi, Anthony Yaccarine, Joe Boland, Chad Sinko, Navadel, Brian Helft, Juan Adorno, John Bednarek, Devin Del Priore, Anthony Morris, and Greg Dawber.
Mercy, looking to avoid the season-series sweep, scored in the 1st when Joseph Sadallah singled, stole second, moved up on an error, and scored an unearned run on a Randal Mendez grounder. From there, STAC starter Bednarek was in charge, allowing just two hits and that unearned run in six stellar innings of work.
STAC did all it's scoring in the home second off Mercy ace Matt Nalbone, loading the bases with nobody out on a pair of singles and a hit batter. Greg Dawber rifled a single through a drawn-in infield to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead, and with two out, Mike Morgan's RBI single and a Mavericks error brought home two more to open a 4-1 lead.
Bednarek yielded in the 7th, with Chad Sinko, Brian Helft, and Chris Pennell combining for two scoreless frames. That set the stage for Navadel, who shook off a 9th inning single to record his 7th save of the season and the 19th of his career, setting a new Spartans career mark in just two seasons with the club.
The Spartans now await their opponents and the schedule for this weekend's conference tourney. STAC is also in search of its 5th straight NCAA Tournament berth - seven East Region teams will be awarded bids to the NCAA Division II Tournament, with the Spartans ranked #4 in the region entering this week's play. The Tournament Champions from the ECC, CACC, and Northeast-10 all earn automatic bids, with the rest awarded on an at-large basis.