The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team makes its 11th straight ECC Tournament appearance on Thursday at noon, opening against the University of Bridgeport at Mitchel Field in Uniondale, NY. Game Two of the double-elimination format will take place at 3:00 Thursday, when #2 seed and host Molloy College squares off with last season's Tournament Champ and #3 seed LIU Post.
The Spartans (33-13, 18-6)- Nationally-ranked throughout the season, STAC enters the weekend with a 33-13 overall record, including an 18-6 mark and share of the regular-season championship along with Molloy. After clinching the tourney's top seed on Friday, the Spartans dropped their final three regular-season games against LIU Post, marking the first time since March 4-10, 2017, that STAC has lost three straight. The offense is sparked by Giovanni Dingcong, who led the ECC in homers (13) and RBI (50), while Joseph Pena enters the weekend tied for the batting title with a .396 average. Frankie Moscatiello (7-2, 2.43 ERA) and Chris Cepeda (6-3, 3.22) rank among the circuit's top pitchers, and Angelo Baez recorded 10 saves to lead the league.
The Purple Knights (14-32, 11-13) - Just one month ago, it would have been hard to imagne that Bridgeport would enter as perhaps the field's hottest team, after a tough schedule and a slow start conspired to send them off to a 4-28 start. UB closed strong, however, winning 10 of their final 13 ECC games including a series win over Mercy in the season's final weekend to secure the final berth. Darren Grabowski powered the P-Knights with a team-high nine homers, while Logan Allen set the table with a .339 batting average. On the hill, Jason Burger has led Bridgeport's resurgence, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.45 ERA.
Season Series (STAC, 3-1) - The Spartans were playing dominant baseball when the teams squared off for their conference weekend, and STAC cruised to a 16-0 victory in the opener at Harbor Yard on April 13, as Pena recorded four hits and Cepeda threw five shutout innings for the win. The next day, the Spartans swept a pair, with a 6-3 win in the opener and a 1-0 duel in the nightcap. In the opener, Burger was strong for Bridgeport until STAC rallied for the win, with Pena coming up with a big triple and Tyler Patane allowing just three unearned runs in 5.1 innings. The nightcap provided what had to be the Play of the Year, as Anthony Shkrelja's homer was the lone tally into the final batter of a 1-0 game. Mark Hirschbeck's apparent game-tying homer was snared over the right field fence by Dingcong, giving Moscatiello the shutout win. In Sunday's finale, Tom Rinaldi drove in three runs and Matt Alicki shut down the Spartans as UB captured a 7-2 victory, a win which begun the momentum that carried through the end of the season.
In the Post-Season - With their share of this season's regular-season conference championship, the Spartans have now won either the regular-season and/or the tournament championship in an amazing seven consecutive seasons, taking the regular-season crown in 2012, '13, '16, '17 and '18, and capturing the tourney title in 2013, '14, and '15. STAC is in search of its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and ranked #3 in the most recent East Region rankings. The Spartans have won the East Region Championship in 2014 and '17, and were among the three finalists for last year's National Championship.
Bridgeport has also enjoyed success in the playoffs but is still in search of one big victory. The Purple Knights have been in the ECC Tournament finals in five of the past seven seasons, but they're still seeking their first ever Tournament title.
What's Next? - The East Coast Conference Tournament is a double-elimination format. The loser's of Thursday's games play an elimination contest in Game 3 on Friday morning at 9:30, while Thursday's winners play Game 4 at 12:30 pm on Friday. The winner of Game 3 meets the Loser of Game 4 at 3:30 Friday, with the victory advancing to Championship Saturday, with first pitch at 12:00 noon.
All games during the championship will be broadcast live on the ECC Network website and the ECC Network OTT app on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku. To read Twitter updates throughout the tournament, follow @ECCSports. To see video highlights from all games, follow @ECCSportsNet on Twitter. Tournament recaps, live stats, box scores and all other pertinent tournament information will also be available on www.eccsports.org at the tournament central web page.
2018 ECC Baseball Championship hosted by Molloy College at Mitchel Field - Uniondale, N.Y.
Thursday, May 10
Game 1 - 12:00 PM - No. 4 Bridgeport vs. No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas
Game 2 - 3:00 PM - No. 3 LIU Post vs. No. 2 Molloy
Friday, May 11
Game 3 - 9:30 a.m. - Loser Game One vs. Loser Game Two
Game 4 - 12:30 p.m. - Winner Game One vs. Winner Game Two
Game 5 - 3:30 p.m. - Winner Game Three vs. Loser Game Four
Saturday, May 12
Game 6 - 12:00 p.m. - Winner Game Four vs. Winner Game Five
Game 7 - If necessary - 30 minutes after the completion of Game Six
(Broadcast info and schedule courtesy of eccsports.org)