The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team rode the strong right arm of Chris Cepeda to a 6-2 triumph over the University of New Haven at the USA National Baseball Training Center in Cary, North Carolina. Since stumbling from the gate the Spartans have now won three straight - all the the DII Challenge - to improve to 3-6 overall, with UNH slipping to 5-3. The win is also a measure of revenge as the previous meeting of these teams resulted in a 17-1 Charger victory in STAC's second game of the season, on February 23.
Each squad recorded just one hit through two scoreless innings but New Haven broke through in the third when George Pappas led off with a single, advanced on a sacrifice, and scored on Billy Huber's base hit. STAC answered immediately in the bottom half, loading the bases with one out and seeing Angelo Baez come home on a passed ball to tie the score at 1-1.
Cepeda and his counterpart, Thomas Elletto, carried the duel into the fifth when the Spartans pushed across three decisive runs. Baez doubled to lead off and came around when red-hot Michael Morgan stroked a double to give St. Thomas Aquinas its first lead of the day. A double-steal put runners in scoring position and Tyler Patane came through with a two-run single to open a 4-1 gap.
STAC added a pair in the seventh when Morgan drew a leadoff walk and scored on Dylan Klock's triple. Tyler Patane followed up with a sacrifice fly to open a 6-1 lead. UNH threatened in the eighth and pushed across a run on Rob Giovanelli's two out single, but Cepeda struck out Andrew Cain to strand a pair and blasted through a 1-2-3 ninth for the complete game win. The redshirt senior yielded just the two earned runs on eight hits while striking out 10 and walking none. That extends his incredible season-opening streak to 28 strikeouts without a walk in 23 innings of work, while notching his first win of the season. Morgan continued his strong hitting by going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored, as he is now 8-for-13 (.651 average) in the three STAC wins.
The Spartans have a brief break before facing Fairmont State in Saturday's evening contest, then they enjoy a day off on Monday before wrapping up their North Carolina sojourn against Slipper Rock Tuesday, and Franklin Pierce Wednesday, both starting at 11:30 am.