The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team dropped a 2-0 decision to Franklin Pierce University in its 2019 season opener at the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The contest was the third of the season for the Ravens, who remain perfect at 3-0. The contest lived up to its billing with the Spartans, ranked #2 in the East in the NCBWA preseason poll, suffering a tough setback against #4 ranked FPU.
Chris Cepeda was tapped as the Opening Day starter for the Spartans and picked up where he finished last season, showing excellent command while being locked in a scoreless tie with Pierce starter Anthony Matarrazo through five innings. Cepeda retired the first 13 Ravens batters to step in, and allowed his first hit with one out in the fifth.
STAC threatened in the top of the sixth when Michael Morgan led off with a walk and advanced when Jonathan Cepeda reached on an error, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. Morgan was picked off at second, however, and the Spartans came up empty. That opened the door for the Ravens to score the night's only runs in the home sixth.
Joel Lara led off with a single, Harrison Smoske's sacrifice bunt was misplayed by Chris Cepeda, and Brad Roberto singled to load the bases with none out. Jonel Ozuna followed with an RBI single and Ural Forbes plated the insurance run with a sac fly to give FPU its 2-0 lead. While further damage was avoided, STAC was unable to come up with the big hit, with Tyler Patane recording a two-out double in the seventh before being stranded, and the Spartans loading the bases with two out in the eighth but again unable to find the big hit.
Cepeda took the tough loss, allowing just one earned run on five hits over seven innings, striking out nine without allowing a walk. Matarrazo scattered four hits over seven innings to take the win, with Shane Kittila tossing two scoreless frames for the save.
The Spartans' incredible opening-weekend schedule continues on Saturday against #3 ranked University of New Haven at 2:00 pm, and against #5 Wilmington at 5:30. The four-game set in Myrtle Beach concludes on Sunday at 9:00 am with a showdown against #1 ranked Southern New Hampshire University.