Preview: Spartans Face Southern New Hampshire for Regional Title on Monday at Noon

Preview: Spartans Face Southern New Hampshire for Regional Title on Monday at Noon

The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team faces host Southern New Hampshire University for the East Regional Championship on Monday at 12:00 pm in Manchester, New Hampshire. The teams square off in tournament Game 12 with STAC being the lone remaining team in the Winner's Bracket - if St. Thomas Aquinas wins, they earn the regional title while, if SNHU wins, the teams will play again 30 minutes later with the winner taking the title and earning a trip to the Elite Eight in Grand Prairie, Texas.

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The Tournament -  Seven teams converged on Manchester, New Hampshire and only two remain, with #3 seeded St. Thomas Aquinas (41-15) squaring off with the top-seeded hosts from Southern New Hampshire University, as the eventual Regional Champion advances to the Elite Eight in Grand Prairie, Texas, after being decided on Monday. Each program is in search of its second East Championship, with SNHU earning the distinction in 2012 and the Spartans earning their title in 2014

The Schedule - By virtue of being the lone undefeated team, with a 3-0 record, the Spartans need just one victory to capture the regional title. The Penmen would need to defeat STAC in Game 12 to force a deciding contest immediately following.

St. Thomas Aquinas - The Spartans (41-15) trailed in their first two games before rallying to victory, but Saturday's win over Southern New Hampshire followed a different script. STAC scored twice in the opening frame to grab the lead, the Giovanni Dingcong crashed two homers while Bobby Morse went 4-for-5 with a round-tripper in a 13-1 victory. Anthony Shkrelja was magnificent on the mound, allowing one run and four hits over eight innings of work.

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 making their 5th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, which includes their East Regional Championship in 2014. This is STAC's third trip to the Regional Final in four seasons, as the Spartans fell to Wilmington in 2015.

Since the 2013 season, the Spartans have a 24-15 overall post-season record (12-6 ECC; and 12-9 NCAAs). That total includes an impressive 14-6 mark in games when facing elimination.

Southern New Hampshire - The Penmen (43-10) earned their second straight trip to the Regional Final by rallying for eight unanswered runs in an 8-2 win over Felician on Sunday. SNHU faced elimination, trailing by a 2-0 count through six innings, before pushing across three in the 7th and four more in the 8th.

Like the Spartans, Southern New Hampshire finished first in the Northeast-10 in the regular season before being upset in their conference tournament. They are looking to erase that with their first Regional Championship since the 2012 season.

The Season Series - STAC leads, 2-1

Before STAC's convincing win on Saturday, these squads met in a double-header on March 18 at neutral site Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, NY. Both ends of the split were decided by a single run as Frankie Moscatiello was dominant in the 1-0 opening win for STAC, allowing just two hits while fanning 14, while Giovanni Dingcong knocked in the game's only tally.

SNHU rebounded in the nightcap, rallying from an early 4-0 deficit to capture a 7-6 decision. Caleb Potter had a double and three RBI to lead the Penmen, while Alex Person allowed five runs - but just one earned - on eight hits in 6.1 innings of work.

NCAA Tournament History - Series tied, 2-2

STAC and SNHU have developed quite a post-season rivalry in recent years. With both teams becoming perennial NCAA Tourney fixtures, is actually the fourth straight season that these programs have squared off in Regional play, and fifth post-season battle overall, including the Spartans' victory on Saturday. In 2014, STAC held off elimination to stun the host Penmen with a 6-1 victory. In that game, Spartan starter Rob Frank withstood a 40-minute rain delay and threw 142 pitches to earn the win, which helped propel his team to the East Regional Championship.

Southern New Hampshire returned the favor in 2015 with a 6-3 win in Rindge, NH, as Person allowed three runs on eight hits in eight innings to earn the win. Despite being relegated to the Loser's Bracket, STAC rallied to reach the regional final before falling to champ Wilmington.

Last season, SNHU dealt the final blow to STAC's season with a 10-4 victory, leaving the Spartans just one game shy of their third straight finals appearance. Mitchell Powers entered the game in relief in the 1st inning and worked 9.0 frames to earn the win. SNHU was defeated by Franklin Pierce in the final.

What's Next - The winner of the East Regional advances to the NCAA Elite Eight in Grand Prairie, Texas. Full regional schedule as follows:

2017 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship - East Regional
hosted by Southern New Hampshire University
Penmen Field, Manchester, N.H.
May 18-22, 2017

Thursday, May 18
Game 1: (3) St. Thomas Aquinas 8, (6) Southern Connecticut 3
Game 2: (2) New Haven 5, (7) Dominican (N.Y.) 2
Game 3: (4) LIU Post 4, (5) Felician 2

Friday, May 19
Game 4: Dominican (N.Y.) 5 vs. Southern Connecticut 3 (Southern Connecticut eliminated) 
Game 5: (1) Southern New Hampshire 15, LIU Post 3
Game 6St. Thomas Aquinas 4, New Haven 1

Saturday, May 20
Game 7: LIU Post 9, Dominican 5 (Dominican eliminated) 
Game 8: Felician 7, New Haven 1 (New Haven eliminated) 
Game 9: St. Thomas Aquinas 13, Southern New Hampshire 1

Sunday, May 21
Game 10: Felician 8. LIU Post 7 (LIU Post eliminated) 
Game 11: Southern New Hampshire 8, Felician 2 (Felician eliminated) 

Monday, May 22
Game 12: St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Southern New Hampshire -- 12 pm
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* -- 30 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if SNHU wins Game 12