Walkoff Win Caps STAC Sweep of Bridgeport; Spartans Clinch ECC Berth

Walkoff Win Caps STAC Sweep of Bridgeport; Spartans Clinch ECC Berth

The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team clinched a return to the East Coast Conference Tournament with a 13-3, 6-5 sweep over the University of Bridgeport at Palisades Credit Union Park. The Spartans now stand at 32-11 overall and have regained first place in the ECC Standings with a 13-6 mark, dropping Bridgeport to 22-17-1, 11-8.

After the Purple Knights won the series opener at home on Friday, St. Thomas Aquinas rallied, blowing open a tight contest in the opener before stealing the nightcap in walkoff fashion. Giovanni Dingcong's two-run homer sparked the game one victory while Scott Hannon improved to 6-0 with the relief win in the second game.

Greg Dawber led of for the Spartans with a walk, and Joseph Pena and Brandon Fischer followed with singles to plate the first run of the day. Deven Del Priore followed with a sac fly, and Dingcong's homer deep into the right field seats made the score 4-0.

Bridgeport chipped away against STAC ace Matt Kostolos, as Alnaydo Rodriguez drove in a second-inning run, and Casey McCone brought in another in the fifth to make the score 4-2. Jon McGugan and Tyler Patane came through with run-scoring hits as the Spartans added three unearned runs in the sixth, and Pena tripled and came in on Fischer's sac fly in the seventh to open an 8-2 margin.

Though the Purple Knights added an eighth inning run, STAC put the game out of doubt with five more in the last of the fifth. Kostolos allowed two runs in 6.2 innings to improve to 6-0 on the season, with Dakota Edwards taking the loss to stand at 4-5.

Game two followed a similar script, with the hosts jumping to an early 4-0 cushion. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the second, McGugan was hit by a pitch to force in the first run. Bridgeport starter Denis Lyman almost escaped further damage, but a potential inning-ending grounder was thrown away, allowing another run to score, followed by Greg Dawber's two run single.

Sam Vincenzo was very economical in allowing just one run over the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth. A pair of walks and a fielding error opened the door for the Purple Knights to tie the score at 4-4.

That score would hold up until the seventh and final inning, when the visitors staged a two-out rally. A pair of singles set the wheels in motion, and an errant throw plated the go-ahead run as the Spartans faced their final at-bat.

Pena was hit by a pitch to lead off and advanced on a sacrifice bunt before stealing third. Reliever Adam Thayer recorded a strikeout and was one out from the win when the Spartans worked their late-game magic. Deven Del Priore came up big with a game-tying single and gave way to pinch-runner Andre Jackson. Dingcong's pop-up appeared ready to send the teams into extra innings, but the wind played tricks and the ball fell in, with Jackson tearing home from first to slide home with the unlikely winning run.

Hannon has been on the spot in relief and improved to 6-0 with the win with Thayer falling to 1-1 with the tough loss. Dingcong and Del Priore had two hits each in the triumph.

The series concludes with a twilight 6:00 pm start on Sunday at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. The Spartans then play a home-and-home non-conference pair with Dominican on Tuesday and Wednesday before closing out the regular season with a four-game series against Molloy next weekend.

- Steve Balsan, St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information

- Photo by Dorice Arden