Manchester, N.H. - The St. Thomas Aquinas College Baseball team repeated history from the ECC Tournament, sweeping Dowling College to win the Division II East Regioin Title in Manchester, NH. The Spartans advance to the NCAA Division II Championship in Cary, NC, May 24-31. STAC won the first game of the day by a 4-2 count, and Matt Kostolos came back on two days rest to throw a complete-game shutout in a 3-0 title clinching victory.
STAC now stands at 38-16 overall, while Dowling's season comes to a close with a 36-17 mark.
Dowling's Kyle DeMeo and STAC's Gonzalez traded zeroes through three dominant innings before the Spartans jumped on a mistake to get on the board. With two down and none on in the visitors' 4th, Stanley Susana walked and advanced to second on DeMeo's errant pickoff attempt. Deven Del Priore followed with a line single to center, scoring Susana and allowing Del Priore to move to second. Derek Hirsh provided another RBI single and the Spartans were up a pair.
In the bottom of the 5th the Golden Lions stole a run when, with first and third and two down, Andrew Abreu came home when Dan Parisi sacrificed him on a double steal attempt to make the score 2-1.
Gonzalez continued to work his strongest outing of the season but was victimized when JC Brandmaier tied the score with a leadoff homer in the last of the 7th. STAC would rebound in the next frame, however, taking advantage of another Dowling fielding mistake.
Rich Baerga's leadoff grounder to short was thrown away by RJ Going, and Baerga advanced to second on a Kenny Kirshner grounder. With the season on the line, Dowling brought in ECC Pitcher of the Year Tyler Badamo to relieve, and Derek Hirsch greeted him with a line single to center. Baerga, playing half way, was going to be held at third but Jon Cruz bobbled the ball in center, allowing the eventual winnin run to score.
The drama was far from over as the Golden Lions put runners at second and third wiith just one out in the bottom of the 8th, ending Gonzalez' day and bringing on Ferriggi. The ECC's top reliever was true to form, striking out Parisi and Brandmaier to end the threat.
Ferriggi would help his own cause with an RBI single in the top of the 9th, scoring Nick D'Angelo, who had reached on a fielder's choice and stole second. Gonzalez improved to 4-2 with the win, with Robert Rose taking the loss in relief to drop to 2-2.
After forcing a final game with their earlier victory, the Spartans sent Kostolos to the mound to face Dowling's Cody McPartland. Kostolos danced through early control problems before settling down, while McPartland was strong through five scoreless innings.
Kostolos stranded a runner at second with two down in the top of the 6th and the Spartans went to work, with Dowling's fielding once again opening the door. Mike Apreda led off with a line single to right, and gave way to pinch runner Kadeem Octave. McPartland was done for the day, with Nick Persad coming on in relief.
Rich Baerga laid a bunt down the first base line but Persad's flip was just offline, pulling first baseman JC Brandmaier off the base as Baerga was credited with a single, moving Octave to second.STAC then benefitted from a somewhat unlucky, lucky bounce.
Persad's pitch in the dirt got by catcher Mike Rizzitello, but hit home plate ump Dave Sparanza and stayed near the plate. With Octave breaking, Parisi's throw was nearly in time but was offline, caroming into right field and allowing Octave to score the game's first run. Baerga then stole third and came in on Derek Hiirsch's two-out single, putting the Spartans up a pair.
Now pitching with the lead, Kostolos found his groove, retiring the Golden Lions in order in the 7th, as his offense tacked on another run. Stanley Susana led off with a single, advanced on a fielding error by third baseman Vinny Orlando. and Omar Cuevas laced an RBI single through the hole to give STAC a 3-0 cushion.
Dowling went down in order in the 8th but had a glimmer of hope when Brandemaier was hit by a pitch to lead off the visiting 9th. Parisi followed with a grounder to third, and CJ Ferriggi started an around-the-horn twin killing to bring the game to its final out. Rob Veltre went down swinging and the celebration was on, as the Spartans accepted their first Regional Championship trophey.
Kostolos improved to 7-2 on the season with the win, while McPartland fell to 1-4 with the hard-luck loss. CJ Ferriggi was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player on the strength of his one win, one save effort on the mound and his standout play at third base through the weekend.
St. Thomas Aquinas will return to action on Sunday, May 25, at the US National Baseball Center in Cary, North Carolina, taking on the winner of the South Central winner in a 5:00 pm start. Eight teams remain in the quest for the Division II National Championship.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.