The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team cruised to a 13-1 victory over top-seeded host Southern New Hampshire University. The Spartans play Monday at noon for the East Regional Championship. STAC remains in the Winner's Bracket, improving to 41-15 overall, seeking their first trip to the Elite Eight since the 2014 season.
St. Thomas Aquinas will now be off on Sunday, awaiting their opponent in tournament Game 12, as SNHU, Felician and LIU Post will battle for the remaining slot. As the only remaining undefeated team, the Spartans need just one win to capture the title, while Monday's opponent would need to defeat STAC twice. The regional champ advances to the Elite Eight in Grand Prairie, Texas.
STAC broke on top with a pair in the 1st, with a hit, a walk, and an error loading the bases for Bobby Morse's run-scoring single to center. Mark Shkrelja followed with a sac fly to make the score 2-0. Anthony Shkrelja allowed just two hits through the first four innings and the Spartans added an insurance marker in the bottom of the 4th when Dingcong singled, Morse doubled, and Mark Shkrelja again came through with a sac fly to make the score 3-0.
Dingcong broke the game open in the 5th, when a two-out error opened the door and STAC's all-time home run leader added to his total with a 3-run shot to center. Cris Ruiz and Joey Pena added RBI singles in the 6th to build an 8-0 gap and the rout was on, with Dingcong's majestic leadoff blast to right in the 7th touching off a three-run rally.
Southern New Hampshire pushed across its lone run in the 8th on a triple and a ground out, but the Spartans answered in the bottom half on Morse's two-run shot to close the scoring.
Morse and Dingcong were huge in the middle of the order, combining for seven hits and seven RBI, with Mark Shkrelja driving in three runs in support of twin brother Anthony, who improved to 4-1 by scattering just four hits and one run in his eight innings of work, striking out seven and walking none. Zach Goldstein had two of the Penmen's hits while starter Jake Stearns was tagged with his first loss of the season to fall to 6-1.
2017 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship - East Regional
hosted by Southern New Hampshire University
Penmen Field, Manchester, N.H.
May 18-22, 2017
Thursday, May 18
Game 1: (3) St. Thomas Aquinas 8, (6) Southern Connecticut 3
Game 2: (2) New Haven 5, (7) Dominican (N.Y.) 2
Game 3: (4) LIU Post 4, (5) Felician 2
Friday, May 19
Game 4: Dominican (N.Y.) 5 vs. Southern Connecticut 3 (Southern Connecticut eliminated)
Game 5: (1) Southern New Hampshire 15, LIU Post 3
Game 6: St. Thomas Aquinas 4, New Haven 1
Saturday, May 20
Game 7: LIU Post 9, Dominican 5 (Dominican eliminated)
Game 8: Felician 7, New Haven 1 (New Haven eliminated)
Game 9: St. Thomas Aquinas 13, Southern New Hampshire 1
Sunday, May 21
Game 10: Felician vs. LIU Post -- 12 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Game 10 Winner vs. Southern New Hampshire -- 3:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Monday, May 22
Game 12: St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Game 11 Winner -- 12 p.m.
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* -- 40 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if Game 11 Winner wins Game 12