Rindge, N.H. - The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team stayed in the Winner's Bracket with a 4-0 victory over Dowling College at the Division II Baseball East Regionals in Rindge, N.H. Anthony Morris was in command, tossing a two-hitter for the win as STAC improved to 37-15, dropping East Coast Conference Tournament Champ Dowling into the Loser's Bracket and a 28-24 record.
Morris twirled a two-hit masterpiece, allowing just a pair of second inning singles, striking out 10 while walking just two. So dominant was the junior's performance that the Golden Lions had just one runner reach as far as second base, with the righty retiring 17 of 18 batters in one stretch. Michael Morgan came up big with three hits to pace the Spartans' attack.
With the victory, St. Thomas Aquinas sets up a showdown against top seeded host Franklin Pierce in Tournament Game 9 on Saturday night at 7:00 pm. Pierce, which earned a bye as top seed in the seven-team field, won its first appearance on Friday afternoon via an 18-0 drubbing of Felician University. The winner of that contest earns a day off, advancing to Monday's regional final.
Dowling will now play an elimination game against the University of Bridgeport on Friday at 3:00 pm in a rematch of the ECC Tournament final.
Golden Lions starter Chris Cepeda retired the first six Spartans to face him but wildness caused trouble in the third, as Jon McGugan was hit by a pitch to lead off and Morgan followed with a grounder off the pitcher's glove for an infield single. Greg Dawber struck out attempting to move the runners up, but Brandon Fischer loaded the bases with a line single to center. Joey Pena's tapper to first was enough to drive in the first run of the night, though STAC stranded a pair in scoring position.
STAC added a run in the fourth but, again, squandered an opportunity for more. Cepeda hit Giovanni Dingcong and Nick Gargan with pitches to set the table, but Joe Boland popped to first and McGugan flew out to center for the second out. Morgan's grounder up the middle was smothered by Golden Lions' shortstop Tyler Piccolo to save a run and load the bases, but Greg Dawber followed with a walk to give the Spartans a 2-0 edge. Fischer fanned to end the frame as STAC left five runners on over two innings.
Aside from allowing a pair of second inning singles, Morris was masterful throughout the evening, striking out six and walking just one over his first seven strong innings. That gave his offense a chance to tack on a pair of huge insurance runs in the visiting eighth.
For the third time, a hit batter leading off proved to be costly to Cepeda, and Deven Del Priore did the honors this time around. Dingcong sacrificed Del Priore to second, where he yielded to pinch runner Andre Jackson. Nick Gargan walked, and pinch-hitter John DeAngelis recorded an infield hit to load the bases with one out.
McGugan's sac fly to left brought in Jackson to make the tally 3-0, with Gargan taking third on the play. That loomed large when Morgan dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line - his third infield hit of the night - as Dowling's Dan Farina could only watch until the ball struck the third base bag, plating Gargan with the game's final run.
Morris owned the rest of the night, allowing just a walk over the final two innings to improve to 6-4 on the season. Cepeda was saddled with his first loss of the season, dropping to 7-1 overall.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.
Photo provided by Dorice Arden.