Uniondale, N.Y. - The St. Thomas Aquinas baseball team won its opening game of the East Coast Conference Tournament, a 3-2 victory over No. 4 University of Bridgeport at Mitchel Field in Uniondale, N.Y. The Spartans improve to 34-13 overall and remain in the Winner's Bracket of the double-elimination tournament, and will play on Friday at 12:30 against the winner of Thursday's Game 2 between No. 2 Molloy and No. 3 LIU Post. The Purple Knights are now 14-33 overall and will face elimination at 9:30 am tomorrow against the loser of Game 2.
Though the Spartans took three of the four regular-season meetings, the teams entered post-season play heading in different directions, with Bridgeport storming into the tourney with 10 wins in their last 13 ECC games, and STAC having dropped its last three.
Frankie Moscatiello took the hill for the Spartans and shook off a leadoff walk to post a scoreless first, and Nicholas Lucchese greeted Purple Knights' starter Jason Burger with a home run on his first pitch, giving the top seed an early edge. Moscatiello worked out of a first-and-second with nobody out jam in the second thanks to a double-play ball and allowed just one hit through four before running into control problems in the fifth.
Alex Rauso worked out a leadoff walk, the third in the first five innings allowed by the STAC ace, and this one proved costly. With one out, Conall Roberts walked to put two men on, and a fielder's choice followed by a stolen base put runners at second and third with two out. Isaiah Rivera came through with the big hit, as his single to center gave UB its first lead at 2-1.
Meanwhile, Burger - who has been stellar of late - was unfazed by the leadoff homer and kept the Spartans off the board until the home sixth. After a leadoff walk and caught stealing, Anthony Shkrelja and Tyler Patane drew back-to-back walks. Juan Adorno followed with a fly out and Burger nearly escaped any damage, but Bobby Morse laced a double into the right-centerfield gap, plating Shkrelja and pinch-runner Jonathan Meaney, putting STAC back on top at 3-2.
Bridgeport again threatened in the seventh with two on and one out, but again the inning-ending double-play was Moscatiello's best friend and he yielded after seven solid innings of work. Chris Pennell emerged from the pen and was brilliant, retiring all six Purple Knights he faced to earn only his second save of the season, with Moscatiello improving to 8-2. Burger went the distance for Bridgeport and took the loss, dropping to 4-3 on the season.
Provided by the St. Thomas Aquinas Sports Information Department.