The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team, ranked #22 in the nation, cruised to a 8-1 East Coast Conference victory at Mercy College in the opening game of a weekend series. With their sixth straight victory, the Spartans improved to 30-9 overall and remained in first place with a 15-2 ECC record while hitting the 30-win plateau for the seventh straight season. Mercy, currently holding on to the fourth slot in the conference standings, fell to 19-23, 8-9.
For the third consecutive season, Chris Cepeda took the mound at Mercy College Field and turned in a dominant appearance. On May 4th of last season, Cepeda tossed a seven-inning complete-game no-hitter in the Spartans' 4-0 victory. While pitching for Dowling in his freshman season, Cepeda went the distance in scattering four hits and allowing one earned run in a 2-1 pitchers duel victory on April 17, 2015. Once again, Cepeda drew the road start and for the third straight season, the Mavericks were unable to solve the right-hander.
Cepeda went the distance again on Friday, allowing just an eighth inning run on a wild pitch while tossing a four-hitter. That brings his three-year total against Mercy to 3-0, with two earned runs and eight hits allowed in 25.0 innings of work, posting a 0.72 ERA while striking out 15 and walking just two.
While STAC's offense stranded several baserunners in the early innings, that did not stop them from pulling away in the contest. Nicholas Lucchese drew a second-inning walk with the bases loaded to put the visitors on the board, and Tyler Patane's RBI single the following inning made it 2-0 after three frames. Lucchese brought home another in the fourth with an RBI grounder and Joseph Pena scored on a passed ball to increase the edge to 4-0.
Patane led off the fifth with a solo homer and a fielding error plated another run to give the Spartans a 6-0 advantage after five innings. Anthony Maisano's sac fly in the seventh made the tally 7-0. Cepeda carried a two-hitter into the home eighth when a hit batter, a single, and a wild pitch combined to plate the Mavericks' lone run. Lucchese doubled in another insurance tally in the top of the ninth to close out the scoring.
In striking out nine batters with just one walk, Cepeda improved to 5-3 on the season while continuing his recent torrid pace which has seen him go 4-0 in his last five starts, yielding just three earned runs on 25 hits in 37.0 innings, for a 0.73 ERA with 44 strikeouts and only four walks. Cris Ruiz had three hits and Lucchese drove in three runs to lead the offense, as Manuel Sanchez dropped to 2-2 with the loss for Mercy.
The four-game series continues on Saturday with a 1pm double-header at Palisades Credit Union Park before wrapping up back in Dobbs Ferry on Sunday. The Spartans will then be off until playing their final ECC series against LIU Post.