The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team won its fourth East Coast Conference Tournament championship and first since 2015 with a 3-2 victory over Molloy College at Mitchel Field. The Spartans swept all three tournament games to improve to 36-13 overall and earn an automatic qualifier to their sixth consecutive NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament. Molloy's season came to a close with a 31-21 record.
Molloy parlayed two hits and an error into a pair of second-inning runs to grab an early lead, but the Spartans responded with a decisive three-run rally in the home fifth. Nicholas Lucchese's bases-loaded single with one out brought in the first run, Joseph Pena followed with an RBI walk to tie the score, and Giovanni Dingcong's fielder's choice grounder plated the winning run.
After a scoreless first inning, the Lions got on the board first, with Elijah Leerdam and Sean Hogan setting the table with a hit and a walk respectively. After a sacrifice moved them into scoring position, Jake McCarthy drove a single to center to plate the game's first run. James Messina followed with a potential inning-ending double-play grounder, but Bobby Morse's throw was wild, bringing home the second Molloy run. Starter Tyler Patane escaped further damage by inducing Jake Salzman into a double-play grounder.
Anthony Catinella was strong early for Molloy, yielding just one hit over the first four innings. The Spartans finally broke through in the fifth, with Lucchese, Pena and Dingcong driving home the runs to account for the final score. More drama was still in store, however, as the hosts put runners at first and third with two down before Chris Pennell recorded the final out.
Patane was outstanding, tossing seven innings of two-hit ball to earn the win, with Pennell coming in to earn his second save of the tournament. Catinella took the loss for Molloy.
In addition, for his sensational play, Nicholas Lucchese was named the ECC's Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Lucchese went a blistering 7-for-12 (.583 batting avg.) from the plate, with a home run, 2 RBI and 4 runs scored.
Location, seeding, and schedule for the upcoming NCAA Division II Tournament East Regional will be released by the NCAA on Selection Sunday night.
2018 ECC Baseball Championship hosted by Molloy College at Mitchel Field - Uniondale, N.Y.
Thursday, May 10
Game 1 - #1 St. Thomas Aquinas 3, #4 Bridgeport 2
Game 2 - #3 LIU Post 4, #2 Molloy 0
Friday, May 11
Game 3 - Molloy 13, Bridgeport 4 (Bridgeport eliminated)
Game 4 - St. Thomas Aquinas 8, LIU Post 6
Game 5 - Molloy 11, LIU Post 4 (LIU Post eliminated)
Saturday, May 12
Game 6 - 11:30 am - St. Thomas Aquinas 3, Molloy 2
St. Thomas Aquinas wins ECC Tournament Championship