The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team opened the 2018 season with with a 5-4 victory over Indiana University of Pennsylvania at the Dinwiddie Challenge in Dinwiddie, VA. While the contest was the season opener for the Spartans, IUP dropped to 0-4 with the setback. STAC was ranked #1 in the East Region in the preseason, and #7 in the nation this week in polling by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association.
IUP got on the board in the opening frame of starter Scott Hannon on Cory Wheeler's sac fly. The Spartans tied the score in the bottom half when Joey Pena and Bobby Morse set the table with walks and advanced on a double-steal, with Pena scoring on Giovanni Dingcong's infield single. Hannon was unscathed in departing after three innings for reliever Tyler Patane, and STAC jumped on top in the home 4th, starting with Dingcong's leadoff homer, and Angelo Baez bringing home Michael Morgan with a two-out single.
That lead held until the top of the 6th, when the Crimson Hawks pushed across three runs to grab a 4-3 lead. With two out and none on, Patane lost the plate, allowing two walks and two hit batters before giving way to Chris Pennell, who hit two more batters to drive in runs before recording the inning-ending strikeout.
STAC answered quickly in the home 6th, with Anthony Shkrelja leading off with a single and Michael Morgan working out a walk. A passed ball advanced the runners and Baez followed with a two-RBI single, which proved to be the game-winning hit. Pennell settled in after his shaky start, going the final 3.1 innings while striking out eight and not allowing a hit to take the win. Baez and Dingcong recorded two hits each, with Baez driving in three runs and Dingcong two.
The four-game weekend challenge continues on Saturday, February 24, when the Spartans take on Jefferson University in a double-header starting at 3:00 pm, with the trip ending with a 10:00 am showdown with West Chester University.