The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team rallied to a 12-5 victory over West Chester University in a battle of nationally-ranked teams at the Dinwiddie Challenge in Dinwiddie, Virginia. The Spartans, ranked #7 in the most recent National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association national poll, improved to 4-0 on the season in upending #2 ranked West Chester, which dropped to 2-2. In this week's regional rankings, the Spartans hold the top slot in the East while WCU, the defending National Champions, hold down the same spot in the Atlantic region.
Pena started the game in style, crashing a leadoff homer to put STAC on top. The Golden Rams responded with a four-run home 2nd against starter Chris Cepeda, with Justin Horn and Corey Webb each recording RBI singles, and Nick Ward plating two more with a two-out hit. Ward came through with two down again in the home 4th, with his run-scoring double making the tally 5-1.
STAC edged back to within 5-3 with Pena's bases-loaded, two RBI double in the 5th, and took the lead with four more in the 6th. Nick Pucciarelli came around when Michael Morgan reached on a single and an error, making the score 5-4. A fielding error opened the door and the Spartans took advantage, with Pena following with a game-tying double, and red-hot Angelo Baez bringing in two more with a single to make the score 7-5.
That score held until the visiting 8th, when Pena did it yet again, doubling home Chris Ruiz to tack on an insurance run before St. Thomas Aquinas blew the game open with four in the ninth. Anthony Shkrelja and Tyler Patane opened the frame with back-to-back homers, and Pena capped his spectacular day by being credited with two more runs batted in on a fielder's choice, beating the attempted double-play as Mark Shkrelja came around from second.
After the shaky start, STAC's bullpen rose to the occasion with 5.1 innings of two-hit, shutout relief. Freshman Christian Allegretti tossed 3.1 stellar innings to record his first win, with Frankie Moscatiello and Don Hazelton each adding a scoreless frame. Pena went 4-for-6 with seven RBI on the day, closing the weekend with eight runs scored, nine RBI, and a .500 batting average (6-for-12 with six walks and five stolen bases) in the four games played.
The Spartans head back on the road next Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4, taking on Bloomsburg University in a pair of double-headers, with each starting at 12:00 noon.