The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team plays LIU Post in the Winner's Bracket game of the East Coast Conference Tournament at 2:00 pm Friday at Mitchel Field.
The Tournament - Thursday's opening day saw the top seeds hold serve, with #2 LIU Post (28-18) stopping #3 Bridgeport (19-24) by a 7-1 count, followed by the #1 seeded Spartans (38-13) topping #4 seeded host Molloy (19-28) in a 6-1 final.
The field starts to dwindle on Friday, with Bridgeport and Molloy facing an elimination game at 11:00 am. STAC takes on Post in the Winner's Bracket contest at 2:00, with the loser playing at 5:00 against the Bridgeport-Molloy loser.
St. Thomas Aquinas - With Thursday's victory over Molloy, the Spartans have now won 11 straight, 17-of-18 overall, and hold a 29-4 mark over their last 33 contests. Giovanni Dingcong's home run was his conference-leading 15th, more than double his next closest competitors - teammates Chris Ruiz and Anthony Shkrelja, who have seven each.
This season, the Spartans won their 4th ECC Regular Season Championship in the past six seasons (2012, 2013, 2016); they have captured three ECC Tournament titles (2013, 2014, 2015); and are in search of their 5th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, winning the East Regional Championship in 2014.
Since the 2013 season, the Spartans have a 21-13 overall post-season record (12-4 ECC; and 9-9 NCAAs). That total includes an impressive 14-5 mark in games when facing elimination.
LIU Post - The Pioneers were picked to finish 4th in the pre-season coaches' poll, but served notice that they had different ideas with an early five-game winning streak. They started their ECC schedule with a double-header sweep of STAC, and ran off 10 wins in their last 13 games to close the regular-season.
ECC Player of the Year Rob Andreoli (.368 avg, 40 RBI) is a Pioneer to watch, and teammate Thomas Asbaty wielded the hot bat in Thursday's win over Bridgeport with a 3-for-3 showing. Pitching is another strength for LIU Post, with senior ace Jake DeCarli tying for the league lead with his 8th win of the season on Thursday, and Dan Jagiello coming in with the ECC lead in saves with nine.
The Season Series - St. Thomas Aquinas wins series, 3-2
March 24 - @ LIU Post 6, STAC 3
March 24 - @ LIU Post 15, STAC 7
March 26 - @ STAC 2, LIU Post 0 (at Baseball Heaven)
March 26 - @ STAC 7, LIU Post 2 (at Baseball Heaven)
May 3 - @ STAC 17, LIU Post 5 (at PCU Park)
Post raised some eyebrows by starting the conference schedule with a home sweep over the Spartans. Two days later - with PCU Park unavailable - STAC returned the favor by taking a pair at Baseball Heaven. That was the start of the Spartans' incredible run of 29 wins in 33 games. With just over a week to play in the season, the teams met at PCU Park in a battle for first place, as STAC overcame an early deficit to cruise to the victory.
Playoff History - Post is making only its second playoff appearance since 2012, and the teams met in the 2015 post-season, with STAC earning an opening round 4-2 victory en route to their third consecutive Conference Tournament championship.
What's Next - The winner of the ECC Tournament receives an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans, who are #2 in this week's NCAA East Rankings, are likely to secure a berth regardless of the ECC Tourney outcome. LIU Post, which has been in the regional rankings and enter the tournament at #8 in the East, will likely need to win the championship to earn one of the seven regional berths, though a victory against nationally-ranked STAC would greatly help their cause should they fail to win the tournament and need an at-large bid.
2017 East Coast Conference Baseball Tournament
at Mitchel Field, Uniondale, NY
Thursday, May 11
Game One - #2 LIU Post 7, #3 Bridgeport 1
Game Two - #1 St. Thomas Aquinas 6, #4 Molloy 1
Friday, May 12
Game Three - 11:00 am - Bridgeport vs. Molloy (loser eliminated)
Game Four - 2:00 pm - St. Thomas Aquinas vs. LIU Post
Game Five - 5:00 pm - Loser Game Three vs. Loser Game 4 (loser eliminated)
Saturday, May 13
Game Six - 12:00 noon - Winner Game Four vs. Winner Game 5
Game Seven - if necessary