The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team was selected to place first in both the East Coast Conference and East Region in preseason polls released Thursday. Last season, STAC finished with a record of 44-17 overall, earning the ECC Regular Season Championship and the NCAA East Regional crown for the second time in four years. St. Thomas Aquinas won its first two games at the NCAA Division II Championships, finishing third in the nation overall.
STAC has earned either the ECC Regular Season or Tournament Championship in each of the past five seasons, finishing with a 20-5 conference mark a year ago and taking first place votes from all seven coaches polled. Boosted by the return of many letterwinners from last season's squad, the Spartans had already earned a #3 preseason National Ranking from Collegiate Baseball, the highest in the program's history.
Among the key returnees, Scott Moscatiello was recognized by conference coaches as Preseason Pitcher-of-the-Year. Moscatiello (Rocky Point, NY), is entering his senior year, coming off a tremendous 9-2 overall record with a 2.00 ERA. Other keys include fellow All-Americans Giovanni Dingcong and Joseph Pena.
Accolades and expectations remain plentiful for the Spartans, as they were also ranked #1 in the East Region in the season's first NCBWA poll. STAC received eight of the nine first place votes among committee members, with the lone exception going to Southern New Hampshire University, which is scheduled to be the Spartans' first home opponent this season, visiting Palisades Credit Union Park for a weekend series on March 16-18.
St. Thomas Aquinas was also well-represented on the NCBWA Preseason All-Region Team, with Pena (.378 avg, 38 RBI, 24 SB), Dingcong (20 HR, 52 RBI, 25 SB) and Moscatiello earning First Team honors. Earning Second Team nods were Anthony Shkrelja (.296 avg, 8 HR, 37 RBI) and Chris Cepeda (7-3, 2.82 ERA).
The Spartans start their 2018 campaign on Friday, February 23, taking on Indiana University (PA) in Dinwiddie, Virginia, the first of a trio of season-opening southern trips. In addition to formidable regional foes like Southern New Hampshire, STAC will play a full slate of ECC opponents, including defending Tournament Champ LIU Post, rival Molloy College, University of Bridgeport, and conference newcomer New York Institute of Technology.