The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team rode a middle-inning explosion to an 8-5 victory in the East Coast Conference season opener at the University of Bridgeport. With a torrid streak of nine wins in their last 11 games, the Spartans have overcome an 0-6 start to the season to crack the .500 mark for the first time, standing at 9-8 overall and 1-0 in the ECC, with Bridgeport dropping to 3-14, 0-1.
A pair of aces took the hill as Bridgeport's Anthony Martino locked up with STAC's Chris Cepeda, and the Purple Knights jumped on top in the home first when Alex Rauso scored on a double-steal. That 1-0 score held up through four innings with the Spartans recording just one hit. That changed quickly in the top of the fifth as STAC pushed three runs across.
Anthony Maisano started the rally with a leadoff triple, and back-to-back doubles by Andrew Jemison and Angelo Baez made the score 2-1, spelling a sudden end to Martino's day. Baez eventually came in on a double-play, making the tally 3-1 through five innings and setting the stage for the visitors to break the game open in the sixth.
Reliever Ryan Kasten walked a pair to start the frame and Maisano singled the first run across. Three batters later, Michael Morgan drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in another, and Tyler Patane struck the decisive blow with a base-clearing double as the gap expanded to 8-1. Cepeda remained in the groove until the bottom of the seventh, when Joey Grillo came through with a two-out, two run single to narrow the lead to 8-3.
Cory Listing got the Purple Knights closer with a two-run round-tripped in the eighth, but Cepeda finished the inning without further damage and Reyen Mustafoski came on to retire the side in order in the ninth and earn the save. Patane's three RBI and two hits each from Baez and Maisano propelled the offense, Cepeda struck out nine without a walk and improved to 3-2 on the season and Mustafoski picked up his second save on the season.
(Note schedule change) The weekend series now shifts to Palisades Credit Union Park on Sunday, March 24, as the teams will square off in a 12:00 noon double-header before shifting back to Connecticut for the finale at 3:00 pm on Monday.