The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team will face East Coast Conference Regular Season Co-Champions and tournament host Molloy College for the ECC Tournament Championship on Saturday in Uniondale, NY. Emerging from the Winner's Bracket, the Spartans need just one victory to earn their first tournament title since 2015, while Molloy needs to win twice to take the crown.
How They Got Here - The Spartans opened the tournament on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over Bridgeport, then withstood a late rally from LIU Post for an 8-6 win in Friday's Winner's Bracket matchup.
Molloy dropped Tuesday's opener to ECC Pitcher of the Year James Varela in a 4-0 loss to LIU Post, staying alive by eliminating Bridgeport in a 13-4 drubbing Friday morning, and exacting revenge against Post with an 11-4 elimination in Friday's finale.
The Spartans (35-13)- STAC's offense is sparked by ECC Player of the Year Giovanni Dingcong, who leads the ECC in homers (13) and RBI (50), while Joseph Pena currently leads the league with a .394 average. Bobby Morse has come up big in the tournament thus far, with a two-run game-winning double on Thursday and a solo home run on Friday.
The Lions (31-20) - Molloy stormed out of the gate with a 15-1 record in ECC competition and settled for the regular-season co-championship with St. Thomas Aquinas, with STAC taking the top seed via the season series victory. After being shut out on Thursday, the Lions' potent offense exploded for 24 runs in two games Friday to keep their season alive. Angelo Navetta leads the attack with a .392 average, just behind Pena among league leaders, and 49 RBI, placing only behind Dingcong. Sean Hogan has chipped in with a .380 average, while closer Shawn Klotsche is second in saves with nine.
Season Series (STAC, 4-0) - Molloy soared into its series against St. Thomas Aquinas with a 15-1 conference record, only to see the Spartans complete a four-game weekend sweep. STAC overcame a seven-run ninth inning rally to hold on for a 9-8 win in the opener at Mitchel Field before sweeping a pair of tight contests at home by finals of 6-4 and 6-5. Both of those games followed the same pattern, with the Spartans jumping on top and holding off Molloy for the decision. Sunday's finale back in Uniondale saw the visitors again jump out to a large lead, this time cruising to a 10-4 win.
In the Post-Season - With their share of this season's regular-season conference championship, the Spartans have now won either the regular-season and/or the tournament championship in an amazing seven consecutive seasons, taking the regular-season crown in 2012, '13, '16, '17 and '18, and capturing the tourney title in 2013, '14, and '15. STAC is in search of its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and ranked #3 in the most recent East Region rankings. The Spartans have won the East Region Championship in 2014 and '17, and were among the three finalists for last year's National Championship.
The Lions, who lost in last season's tournament final to LIU Post, are making their fifth post-season appearance in the last six years, in search of their first ECC Tournament Championship since 2001.
What's Next? - The winner of the ECC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. Seven bids will be awarded in the East Region, with three going to the winners of the ECC, Northeast-10, and Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference tournaments this weekend, and the other four being awarded on an at-large basis. The full 56-team field will be announced by the NCAA on Sunday night.
Entering this week's play, defending East Region Champ St. Thomas Aquinas was ranked #3 in the official NCAA Regional Rankings, and combined with other results in the region this weekend are virtually assured of a tournament bid regardless of Saturday's results. Molloy was not ranked among the top nine teams and will likely need to win the ECC Championship to earn an NCAA slot.
Important Schedule Note - due to the possibility of inclement weather, the start time for Saturday has been changed to 11:30 am, with the "if necessary" game to follow.
All games during the championship will be broadcast live on the ECC Network website and the ECC Network OTT app on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku. To read Twitter updates throughout the tournament, follow @ECCSports. To see video highlights from all games, follow @ECCSportsNet on Twitter. Tournament recaps, live stats, box scores and all other pertinent tournament information will also be available on www.eccsports.org at the tournament central web page.
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 vs. Molloy
Game 7 - If necessary - 30 minutes after the completion of Game Six