The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team continues in the Winner's Bracket of the East Coast Conference Tournament, squaring off against #3 seed LIU Post on Friday at 12:30 pm at Mitchel Field in Uniondale, NY. The winner of that contest will advance to Championship Saturday needing just one victory to capture the conference championship, while the losing squad will play immediately following in an elimination game against the loser of the day's 9:30 am opener between #2 Molloy and #4 Bridgeport.
How They Got Here - The Spartans opened the tournament on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over Bridgeport. Nicholas Lucchese homered on the first pitch of the home first, but the Purple Knights rallied for a pair in the fifth. That held until the bottom of the sixth, when Bobby Morse's two out, two run double proved to be the deciding blow. Frankie Moscatiello worked seven strong innings to get the win and Chris Pennell retired all six batters faced to record the save.
LIU Post rode the shutout pitching of ECC Pitcher of the Year James Varela to a 4-0 shutout over tournament host Molloy. The Pioneers provided all of the game's scoring in the top of the second, when Ramger Iglesias' bases-clearing double drove in three runs. Varela allowed seven hits and threw 145 pitches to improve to 11-1 on the season.
The Spartans (34-13)- STAC's offense is sparked by Giovanni Dingcong, who leads the ECC in homers (13) and RBI (50), while Joseph Pena currently sits in second with a .390 average. Frankie Moscatiello (8-2, 2.44 ERA) and Chris Cepeda (6-3, 3.22) rank among the circuit's top pitchers, and Angelo Baez recorded 10 saves to lead the league.
The Pioneers (29-18) - LIU Post is hoping that history will repeat itself, having won last season's ECC Tournament at Mitchel Field. In addition to ECC Pitcher of the Year Varela, Dave Brehm leads the offense with a .363 batting average, and Iglesias has been a major threat on the basepaths with a conference-leading 39 steals for the season. Anthony Vaglica joined Brehm and Varela on the All-Conference First Team, with Iglesias, Rob Andreoli, Michael Manzione and Noah Lorenzo qualifying for Second Team status.
Season Series (LIUP, 3-1) - These teams met just one week ago, playing their conference series in the final weekend of the regular season. St. Thomas Aquinas rallied from an early deficit to tag Varela with his only loss of the season, clinching the tourney's top seed in the process. Post rebounded to take the final three games of the series, not only becoming the only squad in the ECC to take a series from the Spartans, but they equalled the win total of the rest of the conference combined.
The Rematch? - Friday's contest could well feature a rematch of last season's ECC Tournament classic pitcher's duel between STAC's Chris Cepeda and Post's Noah Lorenzo. That contest featured a scoreless deadlock into the top of the ninth inning, when the Pioneers broke through for the game's lone tally in a 1-0 victory. Cepeda scattered five hits in going the distance, while Lorenzo yielded after eight, having limited the Spartans to three hits.
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.
Post's victory in the conference tournament last season came with an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament and the Pioneers acquitted themselves well, winning two games before being eliminated from the regional. They enter this weekend's action ranked #7 in the East Region.
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 - 9:30 a.m. - Bridgeport vs. Molloy (loser eliminated)
Game 4 - 12:30 p.m. - St. Thomas Aquinas vs. LIU Post
Game 5 - 3:30 p.m. - Winner Game Three vs. Loser Game Four (loser eliminated)
Saturday, May 12
Game 6 - 12:00 p.m. - Winner Game Four vs. Winner Game Five
Game 7 - If necessary - 30 minutes after the completion of Game Six
(Broadcast info and schedule courtesy of eccsports.org)