The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team split a pair with Bloomsburg University in Colonial Heights, Virginia, to close out their southern trip. The Spartans shook off their difficult first week to win 7-of-9 games, briefly hitting the .500 mark for the first time this season before dropping the nightcap to stand at 7-8, while Bloomsburg is now 9-3. Before dropping two-of-three to the Spartans, the Huskies had won six straight and were ranked #4 in the Atlantic Region in this week's NCBWA poll.
Coming off Friday's wild 13-12 win, the Spartans picked up where they left off, as Tyler Patane's RBI triple got the ball rolling in the home first. STAC starter Chris Cepeda, who had not allowed a walk in his first 23.0 innings pitched this season, saw that string come to a halt as he battled control issues throughout the day, as a pair of second-inning walks and three hits helped the Huskies jump to a 2-1 lead.
STAC responded quickly with a pair in the bottom half, as Andrew Jemison's run-scoring double was followed by an Anthony Maisano RBI single to put the Spartans back on top. They added another in the third on Jemison's second RBI hit of the game, and Cepeda danced through trouble to keep that 4-2 edge through five frames. An uncharacteristic three walks and a hit batter helped Bloomsburg plate a run in the sixth, but Cepeda gave way to Justin Baeyens, who induced an inning-ending grounder to escape further damage.
That was all the support that would be needed as Baeyens yielded just one walk over 2.1 stellar shutout innings, and TJ Gregory was strong in closing out the ninth to pick up his first career save, with Cepeda picking up the gritty win to improve to 2-2 on the year.
In the nightcap, STAC was just one inning from turning an excellent trip into an outstanding one. The Spartans had won 7-of-8 entering the finale but Kyle Ofier gave the home-batting Huskies an early lead with a first-inning solo shot. Carter Chasanov tacked on another with a solo shot in the third, but Kyle Lagrutta's run-scoring grounder cut the deficit to 2-1 through four. That score held up into the wild seventh-and-final inning of the weekend.
St. Thomas Aquinas took advantage of three walks and an error, accompanied by two hits, to stage what appeared to be a game-changing rally. Brian Donnelly and Lagrutta each drew bases-loaded walks to give STAC a 4-2 lead entering the final frame. The bullpen, seeing a lot of work during the trip, was unable to hold the lead as a trio of pitchers couldn't find the big outs and Bloomsburg rallied to tie the score before a bases-loaded passed ball brought home the deciding run. Angelo Baez took the loss in relief, with Trey Hinkle coming from the pen to pick up the win for the Huskies.
The Spartans now head back north to begin the traditional portion of their schedule, starting with a road contest against Felician University on Tuesday, March 19. They play their home opener at Palisades Credit Union Park on Thursday, March 21, at 3:30 pm against the College of Saint Rose before opening their East Coast Conference slate with a four-game weekend set with the University of Bridgeport. The series starts on Friday at PCU Park, shifts to Bridgeport for a Saturday double, and returns to friendly turf for Sunday's finale.