The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team earned the #3 seed in the East Region as the NCAA announced its 56-team field for the 2016 Tournament on Sunday.
Update - Sunday, May 15, 10:30 pm - The Spartans have earned their fourth straight bid to the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament, earning the #3 seed in the East Regional, which will be held at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH.
STAC will face a first-round rematch with #6 seed and ECC foe Molloy College in its first game, Thursday night at 7:00 pm. The Spartans have taken three of the five meetings between the two conference rivals over the past two weeks, the Molloy eliminating STAC from the conference tournament this past Friday. Four East Coast Conference schools qualified for the field, including #5 Bridgeport, and #7 Dowling.
For the past three seasons, STAC's baseball team has taken the "easy" route and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament by virtue of winning the East Coast Conference Tournament. This year, however, the Spartans are in unfamiliar surroundings, awaiting word on whether they qualify for an at-large bid to the National Championship Tournament.
Despite winning the ECC's regular-season championship, the Spartans suffered two tough losses in the conference tourney, dropping their regular-season record to 35-15. This season, by NCAA rotation, seven slots are available in the East Region, with automatic qualifiers going to tournament champs from the ECC, Northeast-10, and Central Collegiate Athletic Conferences. Here are the automatic bids clinched to date:
ECC - Dowling College
NE-10 - Southern New Hampshire University
CACC - Felician University
With four at-large bids still on the table, Franklin Pierce University is a lock despite having lost in the NE-10 tournament, having ranked among the top teams in the nation throughout the season.
Of the three remaining bids, the Spartans appear in solid position to earn their fourth straight NCAA slot, ranking a solid #3 through the final official regional rankings through the end of the regular season. Whether the Spartans earn one of those bids - and if so, the seed they earn - will be announced on tonight's live webcast.
St. Thomas Aquinas has certainly showed its stature in the region over the past two years. After being eliminated in two straight in their 2013 debut, the Spartans stormed to the regional championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in Cary, North Carolina, in 2014. Last season, the Spartans were one of the last teams standing, falling to Wilmington University in the regional championship clash.
As of now, the Spartans' fate is in the hands of the NCAA committee, and the mystery and anticipation will be resloved later tonight. Check this space for updates and additional information as it becomes available.
- Steve Balsan, St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information
- Photo by Dorice Arden