Brookhaven, N.Y. - The St. Thomas Aquinas
College baseball team rode a pitching gem from Rob Naughton and a
late rally to a 4-1 victory at Dowling in the East Coast Conference
Tournament. STAC now plays the loser of Molloy-Bridgeport at 3:00
pm. The Spartans improve to 36-12 overall and 1-1 in the
tournament, while Dowling is eliminated and ends the season with a
record of 22-21-1.
Both teams were sent to the losers bracket of the double-elimination tourney yesterday, with Dowling falling to Molloy, 6-0, and St. Thomas Aquinas coming up short against Bridgeport in a 7-3 final.
ECC Co-Rookie-of-the-Year Rob Naughton of STAC matched zeroes with Golden Lions hurler Adam Brown through four innings of play before the Spartans struck first in the fifth. Rich Baerga was the catalyst, rapping a single to lead off and proceeding to steal both second and third before scoring on a Mike Apreda grounder.
Naughton allowed just two hits through the first six innings but the hosts scratched out the tying run with two down in the seventh. Rob Veltre worked out a walk with one down and went to third on an Andrew Abreu single. Abreu broke for second in in double-steal attempt and catcher Mike Russo's throw was off the mark, allowing Veltre to score, snapping a string of 15.2 scorless tournament innings for the Golden Lions.
STAC would reply in sudden fashion in the eighth. Apreda led off with a single but remained on first two outs later. Andrew Romanella was inserted as a pinch-runner and the move paid dividends when he circled the bases with the go-ahead run on Nick Barbalato's RBI double to right.
First Team ECC selection CJ Ferriggi was brought on in the eight to replace Naughton, who tossed exactly 100 pitches in his seven strong innings of work. Ferriggi, the league-leader in saves who has not allowed an earned run this season, kept the streak alive with a scoreless eighth, allowing his squad to tack on insurance in the final frame.
Tom Bammann took the mound in relief of Brown in the ninth and was victimized when Russo reached on an error to lead off and promptly stole second. Kenny Kirshner reached on an infield hit, moving Russo to third, and stole second as well. Efrian Bautista followed with a sac fly to plate Russo, and Romanella later laid down a squeeze bunt to bring home Kirshner to provide a 4-1 Spartan lead.
Ferriggi provided some tense moments in the ninth, issuing a hit batter and a walk before retiring the final two batters to pick up his eighth save of the season. Naughton improved to an impressive 6-0 on the season, while Brown dropped to 6-4 for the Golden Lions.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.