When and Where: May 20, 2017 – Manchester, N.H. (Penmen Field)
Score: St. Thomas Aquinas 13, Southern New Hampshire University 1
Records: STAC 41-15, SNHU 42-10
Third-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas College hit three home runs en route to a 13-1 victory over the sixth-ranked and top-seeded Southern New Hampshire University baseball team Friday in the winner's bracket semifinal of the NCAA East Regional Championship at SNHU's Penmen Field.
St. Thomas Aquinas took advantage of an error and a walk in the bottom of the first to score a pair against redshirt-junior Jake Stearns (Plymouth, Mass.). Bobby Morse's one-out RBI single to left-center brought in the first run before Mark Shkrelja hit a sacrifice fly to left to score an unearned run from third and make it 2-0.
The Spartans added another run in the fourth as Morse came up with another big hit, following Giovanni Dingcong's leadoff single up the middle by a bloop double down the line in right to put a pair in scoring position. Shkrelja hit a ball up the middle that looked to be headed for center field, but sophomore Kyle Ruth (Albany, N.Y.) made a tremendous diving stop at second and threw in time to get the runner, but Dingcong scored to nudge the lead to 3-0. Stearns then escaped the inning with a pop out and ground out.
St. Thomas Aquinas doubled its lead with one swing in the fifth. After recording two quick outs, Stearns had to deal with a base runner following an error and then gave up a single down the left field line to Anthony Shkrelja before Dingcong hit a ball to left-center that kept carrying to the fence where redshirt-sophomore John Stanton (Sandwich, Mass.) leapt and went over the fence as he made a bid to rob the home run.
The Spartans added on two more in the sixth as they pounded out four straight singles, including the final two of the run-scoring variety from Cris Ruiz and Joseph Pena that stretched the advantage to 8-0.
Dingcong hit his second home run of the game in the seventh, crushing the first pitch of the inning far and deep to left. Following a Morse double, Southern New Hampshire went to the bullpen for redshirt-sophomore Cameron Scotia (Dudley, Mass.), who was greeted with an RBI double to left-center by Mark Shkrelja that made it an even 10-0. A Ruiz RBI groundout two batters later bumped the advantage to 11-0.
Southern New Hampshire made it onto the scoreboard in the eighth after sophomore Joshua Zbierski (Stafford Springs, Conn.) led off with a triple off the wall in center and scored on a groundout to short from junior Kyle Pangallo (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).
Bobby Morse's two-out, two-run homer to left-center in the eighth tacked on two more to make it 13-1.
Stearns had his toughest outing in a Penmen uniform, allowing 10 runs – six earned – on 12 hits, while striking out three and walking one, over six-plus innings. Scotia was charged with three runs on three hits, striking out two and walking two, in two innings.
Anthony Shkrelja tossed eight innings of one-run ball, giving up only four hits, while punching out seven and not walking a batter.
Graduate student Zach Goldstein (Merrick, N.Y.) went 2-for-4, while Zbierski was 1-for-3 with a run scored. Senior Derek Bauer (Millis, Mass.) and junior Caleb Potter (Mentor, Ohio) were each 1-for-4.
Dingcong finished 3-for-3 with two walks, four RBI and four runs scored, with Morse going 4-for-5 with three RBI and a pair of runs. Mark Shkrelja was 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, while Ruiz was 1-for-4 with a pair of RBI.
- SNHU loses for the third time in four games, but has won 21 of its last 25 contests.
- SNHU, which falls to 15-2 (.938) at home this season and 58-12 (.841) since the start of the 2014 season, loses in a nine-inning regulation game at Penmen Field for the first time since April 30, 2016.
- In his previous six outings entering the day, Stearns was 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA over 48 innings, allowing 28 hits to hold opponents to a .172 average, while striking out 38 and walking just four.
St. Thomas Aquinas advances to Monday's NCAA East Regional Championship title game needing just one win to earn a berth to the College World Series. Southern New Hampshire will meet the winner of Sunday's game between fourth-seeded Long Island University-LIU Post and fifth-seeded Felician University for the right to face the Spartans for the title in Sunday's second game at 3:30 p.m.
To stay completely up-to-date with the NCAA East Regional, bookmark the Championship Central page at http://snhupenmen.com/sports/bsb/2016-17/NCAAEastRegional.
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