Brookhaven, N.Y. - The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team eliminated Molloy College, 4-0, in the East Coast Conference Tournament at Dowling. Matt Petro threw a complete game shutout and STAC broke a scoreless tie with a 4-run 7th inning, improving the Spartans to 32-15 overall and sending them to the third and final day of tournament competition. Molloy's season ends with two straight losses as the Lions fall to 20-24.
For the second straight season, St. Thomas Aquinas has lost their first tournament game but won the next two to advance to the finals. They will hope to repeat history of a year ago by winning the championship, but the task will be a daunting one as the Spartans will have to defeat top seed Dowling College twice in order to repeat.
STAC lost their tournament opener against Molloy by a 6-1 score just 24 hours earlier, but kept their season alive with a 4-1 victory over Bridgeport in the day's first game. After entering the Winner's Bracket with yesterday's win, Molloy saw their season come to an end after a 12-3 loss to Dowling followed by the STAC victory in the day's nightcap.
Through six innings of play, the pitchers were the entire story, with STAC's Petro trading zeroes with Lions' hurler Shea Spitzbarth. Petro was dominant over the first six, allowing just two Molloy singles but Spitzbarth may have been better, holding the top hitting team in the ECC to just one hit over that span.
In the top of the 7th, Molloy's third hit of the game was quickly erased on an inning-ending double-play, and the Spartans went to work. With Spitzbarth having retired 14 straight batters, ECC batting average leader Rich Baerga recorded his sixth hit of the tourney with an infield single, and Derek Hirsch sent an 0-2 offering deep into the left-centerfield gap, with Baerga racing home to break the stalemate.
Stephen Sunday would follow with a single to right, scoring Hirsch with a big insurance run. Pinch runner Kadeem Octive advanced on a wild pitch and moved up with Deven Del Priore reaching on a fielding error. After a Nick D'Angelo fly out, Mike Apreda unleashed a big double, bringing in two runs to make the score 4-0 and bringing Spitzbarth's day to an end.
Petro would do the rest, retiring the final six Lions to the plate in taking his first complete game of his STAC career, in his biggest outing of the season. The right-hander threw just 95 pitches, while striking out five and walking two in improving to 3-1. Spitbarth struck out six batters without a walk, but fell to 3-4 on the season.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.