The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team captured a big East Coast Conference double-header sweep, topping Queens College, 11-8 and 5-2 at Palisades Credit Union Park. The Spartans improve to 18-22 on the season and 10-12 in ECC action, with Queens dropping to 22-18-1, 11-11. With six games remaining in the conference schedule and combined with Molloy's sweep over Bridgeport, the ECC Tournament race has tightened significantly.
Four teams qualify for the tourney, with LIU Post having clinched a berth and NYIT needing just one victory to do so. For the remaining two slots, Queen and Bridgeport now stand tied at 11-11, while STAC, Molloy and Bridgeport each sit just one game behind with identical 10-12 marks.
STAC found early success against Knights' ace Dennis Buckstein, with Kyle Lagrutta driving in Michael Morgan to provide a quick lead in the first. A fielding error and Anthony Maisano's RBI grounder pushed across a pair in the third, while Brian Donnelly crushed a leadoff homer in the fourth and Jaden Jorgenson's run-scoring single staked the hosts to a 5-0 lead.
Tyler Patane was cruising on the mound for the Spartans before running into trouble in the fifth, as Eric Roubal's three-run homer keyed a four-run uprising to bring Queens to 5-4. Jon Cepeda scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to add an insurance tally, and Jared Vanderhoof's RBI single capped a two-run seventh as STAC opened an 8-4 margin.
Queens strung together four hits and utilized a STAC error to post three in the eighth, once again drawing to within one at 8-7, but Maisano knocked home another with a single in the bottom half and Kyle Lagrutta plated two more with a hit to give the Spartans all the runs they would need. Patane worked through five innings to earn the win and Reyan Mustafoski worked the final 1.2 innings to earn the save, as Lagrutta and Andrew Jemison led the 15-hit attack with three each.
Alex Mack, who has struggled this season, got the game two start and came through with his best performance of the campaign, with his teammates providing all the run support he would need in the home first. Donnelly and Patane each drove in runs as STAC pounded out six hits to grab a quick 4-0 advantage. After allowing a pair of two-out singles in the first, Mack showed great control of his pitches, settling in to retire the next 10 straight batters.
After the Knights loaded the bases with none out, Mack battled back, allowing just two runs (one earned) to keep his squad in the lead at 4-2. Maisano tripled home an insurance run in the bottom half to close out the scoring, and Mack rebounded from his tough frame to allow just one baserunner in the final two innings, going the seven-inning distance to earn his first win of the season. Jemison, Maisano, and Cris Ruiz had two hits apiece to solidify the sweep.
Each game takes on further importance with the season entering its final week, as the series shifts to Queens College for a double-header on Sunday starting at noon. The Spartans then play a non-conference tilt at Southern Connecticut on Thursday before putting their season on the line with a regular-season ending four-game series against NYIT next Friday through Sunday.