The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team rallied for its ninth straight victory, a 9-8 triumph over Felician University at Palisades Credit Union Park. The Spartans now stand at 21-10 on the season, with Felician falling to 20-8 after the battle of East Region powers.
Entering the afternoon's action, STAC was ranked #4 in this week's National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) regional poll, with the Golden Falcons coming in at #2 regionally and #20 in the nation. Both were among the hottest teams in the country with STAC having won eight straight and 11-of-12 coming in, and Felician having taken 12-of-13.
After three innings the score was knotted at 2-2, with Felician putting up a pair in the third on the strength of a Ronnie Grant homer and two out RBI double by Jason Polgano, while the Spartans scored runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings, each on run-scoring two out hits by Chris Ruiz and Giovanni Dingcong, respectively.
Each team tacked on a run in the 4th, with the Falcons utilizing a two-out double by Grant, and Joey Pena's run-scoring grounder tying the score at 3-3. Anthony Maisano's sacrifice fly in the home 5th put STAC back in front, and the scoring took a brief respite until the 7th inning.
Felician rallied with four in that frame, with Andrew LaMura and Brennan Price each driving in a pair to put the visitors in a 7-4 cushion. Two big errors opened the door for the Spartans to draw even again in the bottom half with a trio of unearned runs. Dingcong brought one in with a hit, Ruiz walked with the bases loaded and Pena was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run, but STAC stranded the bases loaded to end the frame.
Matt Diesel led off the 8th with a triple and scored on a sac fly by Grant, and Dingcong dropped the fly, allowing the batter to advance to third with none out. That proved to be a turning point, as reliever Chris Pennell stranded him there with no further damage.
With closer Dan Naif trying to preserve the win after entering in the bottom of the 7th, Dingcong came through again, hitting the second pitch of the home 9th into the left field stand to send the game to extra innings tied at 8-8.
Pena started the game's final rally by leading off the 10th with a single, advancing to second on Nick Lucchese's ground out before stealing third. That led to an intentional walk to Anthony Shkrelja to put runners at first and third with one out. After Anthony stole second to erase the double-play threat, brother Mark hit a chopper to third. Pena, off on contact, got a strong jump off third and scored easily when third baseman J.R. Meneses didn't field the ball cleanly, plating the walkoff run.
Frankie Moscatiello was the last of six STAC pitchers to take the mound, working a scoreless inning to improve to 4-1 on the season. The Golden Falcons used 10 pitchers in trying unsuccessfully to stem the Spartan offense, with Tommy Giunta falling to 1-1 with the loss. After struggling of late, Dingcong broke out with a 4-for-5 afternoon, with the big homer and three RBI. Grant was the offensive star for Felician, also driving home three runs.
The Spartans return to action on Wednesday, April 12, hosting West Chester University (PA) in a 6:00 pm start at Palisades Credit Union Park. They will try to extend their lead on first place in the East Coast Conference on Saturday, traveling to the University of Bridgeport for a single game to close out the week.