The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team struck late again, snatching a 2-0 East Coast Conference victory over New York Institute of Technology at Palisades Credit Union Park. The Spartans, ranked #3 in the East Region and receiving votes nationally in this week's National Collegaite Baseball Writers Association polls, have now won five straight to improve to 18-7 overall with a 4-1 conference mark, while NYIT fell to 5-13-1, 2-7. The game was the first meeting ever between the two programs, with NYIT moving to the ECC for this season.
In their last ECC double-header, the Spartans rallied to win both games in their final at-bat against Queens. The opener saw Chris Cepeda locked in a pitchers duel and the scene was repeated on Friday.
Despite struggling early, Cepeda worked out of trouble, allowing eight hits over his six innings of work, stranding eight runners in the process. Meanwhile, Bears starter DJ Masuck was in control, holding STAC to just three hits as the game remained scoreless after six complete. Cepeda gave way in the seventh to Chris Pennell, who yielded a single in two dominant relief innings, but Masuck held the hosts off the board until the eighth.
Joseph Pena led off the inning with a single but was erased on a double-play, but Gio Dingcong followed with a single to left to keep the frame alive. After Dingcong stole second, Anthony Shkrelja turned on a rare mistake from Masuck, driving the decisive two-run homer into the left field corner for the day's only runs. Angelo Baez emerged from the bullpen to work a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save of the season, allowing Pennell to improve to 3-0 with the relief victory. Masuck struck out five and walked three in falling to 1-2 with the hard-luck loss.
The middle games of this four-game ECC weekend set will shift to Old Westbury, with the Spartans traveling to NYIT for a noon double-header on Saturday. The series concludes Sunday at Palisades Credit Union Park in a 2:00 pm start. STAC will then host rival Dominican in a non-conference battle on Tuesday before returning to ECC play for a four-game weekend series against Bridgeport.