Brookhaven, N.Y. - St. Thomas Aquinas beat Bridgeport 6-2 and 9-1 on the final day of the ECC Baseball Championship to win their first ever conference title. Junior first baseman Kenny Kirshner took home the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament award.
The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team staved off
elimination for the third straight game, defeating the University
of Bridgeport, 6-2 in Game 6 of the East Coast Conference
Tournament at Brookhaven, NY. STAC improved to 38-12 with the win,
with Bridgeport dropping to 22-25.
Batting as the visitors for tournament Game 6, the Spartans jumped in front early. With two out and nobody on, Purple Knights starter Chris Maull saw Stanley Susana single and Mike Russo lace a double deep to right to make the score 1-0. STAC tacked on another in the third when Nick Barbalato singled, advanced to third on a Susana single and scored on a Russo grounder.
Spartans starter Joe DePool was in charge early, retiring the first 11 Bridgeport batters and keeping the score 2-0 into the fifth. The top seed would add to its lead in the fifth on a Susana lead-off double, eventually coming home on Ken Kirshner's sacrifice fly. STAC would tack on two more in the top of the sixth, but the damage could have been much worse.
Stephen Sunday led off with a double, followed by a Derek Hirsch RBI single, with Hirsch advancing to second on an error by right fielder Jose-Luis Garcia. Frank Salerno's fly to left was booted by Brian Kondor, with Hirsch stopping at third. After a Salerno stolen base and a Nick Barbalato strike out, Bridgeport rolled the dice, walking Stanley Susana to pitch to Mike Russo, who brought in a third RBI with a sac fly, but the Spartans would strand two, settling for a 5-0 lead.
That looked tenuous when the Purple Knights plated a pair of unearned markers in the bottom of the sixth. Jesse Solar led off with a grounder to third, but Susana's errant throw, advancing Solar all the way to third. With one out, Kondor singled to third, with Susana gunning down Solar at the plate for the second out. The damage was not totally averted, as John Ascenzia singled and both runners came in on Mike Olszyk's two-run double, cutting the deficit to 5-2.
The rest of the afternoon would belong to DePool, who allowed just one base hit over the final three innings, retiring the last five batters faced. Frank Salerno's RBI double, scoring Nick D'Angelo in the top of the ninth provided an insurance run as the Spartans held on for their third straight win.
The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team captured the East
Coast Conference Championship with a 9-1 victory over the
University of Bridgeport in Brookhaven, NY. STAC lost the first
game and then took four straight to earn the title. Kenny Kirshner
had a double and two triples to lead the attack as the Spartans
improved to 39-12, with Bridgeport's season ending at 22-26.
STAC, which saw it's 13-game winning streak snapped in their loss to Bridgeport to start the tourney, has now taken 17-of-18 and 23-of-25 games overall. After allowing seven runs in that 7-3 loss, STAC pitching yielded just five runs - only two earned - over the final four games.
With St. Thomas Aquinas taking the morning contest by a 6-2 count, both teams returned to the field for the final game of the tourney. STAC's Rob Frank and Bridgeport's Shaun Hancock, who squared off just two days ago, took the hill for their respective teams.
After both teams went down in order, the Spartans took charge in the bottom of the second inning, starting with ECC Player-of-the-Year Mike Russo's league-leading 11th homer followed by Kirshner's first triple of the day. He would score on Efrian Bautista's single to put the top seed up a pair.
Frank completed four strong inning, allowing just two hits while fanning seven before giving way to the bullpen. STAC added a run in the fourth on a familiar combination of a Kirshner triple and a Bautista single to make it 3-0.
Bridgeport answered with a run in the fifth off reliever Jon Scott, with Jesse Solar picking up a single, stealing second, and scoring on Bryan Kondor's double. That was as close as the #4 seed would get, however, with the Spartans answering quickly in the bottom half.
Andrew Romanella started things with a leadoff single, and moved to third on Frank Salerno's one-out single. Nick Barbalato's sac fly would score Romanella, with Salerno advancing on the throw. That would be a big extra base when Stanley Susana followed with an RBI single, giving STAC a 5-1 lead and knocking Hancock from the box.
Scott would work two more strong innings, keeping the Purple Knights off the board until the bats could put the game away with a four-run seventh, aided by a pair of Bridgeport errors. Salerno reached on an error and scored on a Susana triple. After a walk to Russo, Kirshner's double plated Susana and Russo, and Bautista's third hit would also be his third RBI of the game, with Kirshner coming in to provide a comfortable 9-1 margin.
Dan Diaz came on to work a scoreless eighth and ninth, allowing just one hit and not being threatened.
Scott was credited wiith the victory to improve to 5-0 on the season, with Hancock falling to 5-4 with the loss. STAC pitching combined for 11 strikeouts while holding the Purple Knights to just three hits.
St. Thomas Aquinas takes the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tourmanent, the first in the program's history. The Spartans were ranked No. 3 in the East Region in the final NCAA regular-season poll and No. 22 in the country by the NCBWA. They will now await the site, dates and opponents for the NCAAs, which will be posted when available.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.