STAC Downs Molloy in NCAA Opener 5-2; Face Dowling Tonight at 8:30

STAC Downs Molloy in NCAA Opener 5-2; Face Dowling Tonight at 8:30

The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team opened the 2016 NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament with a 5-2 victory over East Coast Conference rival Molloy College in the East Regional in Rindge, New Hampshire. The Spartans now advance in the Winner's Bracket to face ECC rival and tournament champ #7 seed Dowling College at 8:30 tonight (Friday). The Golden Lions advanced via a stunning 4-0 victory over #2 Southern New Hampshire University on Thursday.

If the Spartans win in Tournament Game 6 on Friday night, they will advance to Game 9 on Saturday against the Felician/Franklin Pierce winner at 7:00 pm. If they drop that contest, they will return in a Loser's Bracket contest on Saturday at 3:00 pm against Bridgeport.

STAC now stands at 36-15 overall with Molloy falling to 31-22. The Lions will play Southern New Hampshire in a Loser's Bracket game at 1:30. Despite having to complete the halted game from last night, Matt Kostolos didn't miss a beat, going the distance to improve to 8-0 on the season, while Giovanni Dingcong's two run, fourth inning homer plated the decisive runs.

Just one week ago, Molloy ended STAC's East Coast Conference Tournament reign with a 3-2 victory, and STAC's fourth straight NCAA appearance got off to a tough - and soggy - start on Thursday night.

With ECC Pitcher of the Year Matt Kostolos on the hill, Kevin Podell trickled a one-out infield hit, advancing to second on a grounder, and scoring on Elijah Neerdam's flare RBI single. Only eight minutes after first pitch, lightning and rain ceased play, with the game eventually halted to Friday morning.

A new day brought new results as the Spartans quickly tied the game off Molloy ace Ronald Bauer in the bottom half. Joseph Pena led off with a triple and trotted in to tie the score two batters later on Deven Del Priore's sac fly.

Both hurlers tossed zeroes into the home fourth, when Bauer walked Nick Gargan to lead off. Dingcong took full advantage, sending a 1-1 offering deep to left, with the two-run shot providing a 3-1 lead that the Spartans would not relinquish.

Bauer's control wavered in the fifth, as Brandon Fischer worked out a leadoff walk and Del Priore was issued a free pass on four pitches. Seth Noreman came on in relief and the Spartans nearly ran themselves out of the inning when Fischer broke too soon and was caught stealing at third. Nick Gargan followed with a booming double off the left field fence to put runners at second and third, and Dingcong was walked intentionally to walk the bases.

Joe Boland's sac fly gave the #3 seed a 4-1 edge, though STAC was unable to add insurance runs. Kostolos, meanwhile, proved none the worse for a 15-hour inning break, settling in to retire 17 straight Lions through the seventh. In the home half, Noreman issued walks to Del Priore and Dingcong, and Jon McGugan's hopper up the middle couldn't be handled, with the error bringing in Del Priore to open a 5-1 gap.

Molloy posed a big threat in the eighth, as Jack McCarty singled, advanced on a wild pitch, and moved to third on Anthony Galanoudis' infield single with nobody out. Another wild pitch brought home McCarty to make the score 5-2, and a two out walk to Podell brought the tying run, but a strikeout and a grounder ended Molloy's threat.

Having dodged that bullet, Kostolos returned to the hill for a perfect ninth, capping off a 132-pitch, complete game performance. Bauer fell to 7-4 with the loss, as his Lions will face immediate elimination in the ensuing game against #2 SNHU, while the Spartans will have time to regroup before their 8:30 Winner's Bracket tilt.

- Steve Balsan, St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information

2016 NCAA Tournament East Regional Schedule

Thursday, May 19
Game 1: (4) Felician 3, vs. (5) Bridgeport 0
Game 2: (7) Dowling 4, vs. (2) Southern New Hampshire 0

Friday, May 20

Game 3: (3) St. Thomas Aquinas 5, vs. (6) Molloy 2 -- box score

Game 4: Southern NH vs. Molloy-- 1:30 pm (loser eliminated)
Game 5: Felician at (1) Franklin Pierce -- 5 p.m.
Game 6: Dowling vs. St. Thomas Aquinas -- 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 21
Game 7: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Loser -- 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 8: Game 6 Loser vs. Bridgeport -- 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner -- 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 22
Game 10: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner -- Noon (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 9 Loser -- 3:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)

Monday, May 23
Game 12: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner -- Noon
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* -- 40 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if Game 11 Winner wins Game 12.