The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team came from behind for a 4-2 East Coast Conference victory over the University of Bridgeport at Palisades Credit Union Park. The Spartans have now won three straight and 12-of-14 overall, improving to 24-12 overall and 8-4 in conference play. STAC is now back in first place in the ECC by a full game over Bridgeport, LIU Post and Molloy, who have identical league records.
Bridgeport wasted little time getting on the board, with Dylan Steigerwald's one-out single followed by a home run from Zach Burger, putting the Purple Knights up by a pair in the opening frame. STAC got one back in the home second when Mark Shkrelja walked, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a Chris Ruiz single to cut the margin to 2-1.
Starter Chris Cepeda gave up at least one hit in each inning but battled to keep the Purple Knights from plating any runs through the 6th, giving his team the chance to push across the tying run. Bridgeport's Matt von Riper walked Anthony and Mark Shkrelja and a wild pitch moved them into scoring position, where Greg Dawber's sac fly tied the score.
Cepeda yielded to reliever Chad Sinko with two out in the 7th, and the right-hander retired each of the four batters he faced. With his pitch count climbing, van Riper allowed a leadoff single to Joey Pena in the bottom of the 8th. Both Shkreljas walked again around a pair of outs, loading the bases for Dawber, whose single up the middle scored the decisive two runs.
From there, George Navadel worked a strong 9th to earn his fourth save of the season, with Sinko improving to 3-2 with the win. van Riper threw 153 pitches and fell to 2-3 with the tough loss.
The four-game weekend series shifts to Harbor Yard in Bridgeport for a noon twin-bill tomorrow, before wrapping up at Palisades Credit Union park with a 2:00 pm game on Sunday. Friday's contest was the first of a string that will see STAC play 14 of its final 15 regular-season games against conference competition.