When and Where: May 19, 2017 – Manchester, N.H. (Penmen Field)
Score: #3 St. Thomas Aquinas College 4, #2 University of New Haven 1
Records: STAC 40-15, UNH 31-12
Third-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas College used a three-run seventh inning to come from behind and knock off the second-seeded University of New Haven, 4-1, Friday night in an NCAA East Regional Championship game at Southern New Hampshire University's Penmen Field.
New Haven scraped the first run across in the bottom of the first as an error led to a sacrifice fly from Nick Petrillo and an unearned run that made it 1-0.
New Haven starter David Palmer pitched well all game, but did his best work to escape a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth. After nailing down the first out of the inning, Palmer allowed a pair of singles, sandwiched around a walk, to load the bases for Giovanni Dingcong, who hit his 16th home run of the season Thursday. Palmer went to a full count before blowing a high fastball by the slugger for the second out. He then struck out Michael Morgan, who also homered Thursday, to finish off the frame.
The Spartans finally did reach Palmer in the top of the seventh as Greg Dawber led off with a single to left, moved to second on a sac bunt and scored on Cris Ruiz' double down the right field line to tie the game, 1-1. After a strikeout that put Palmer an out away from getting out of the inning with the limited damage, Nicholas Lucchese hit a sinking liner to center that Matt Chamberlain looked to have made a diving catch on, but the umpires ruled it hit the grass, scoring Ruiz to make it 2-1. After the umpires gathered, they upheld the call on the field and replays would conclusively show they did, in fact, make the correct call. That was the end of Palmer's night, but STAC was not done in the inning as Lucchese moved to second on an errant pickoff throw and stole third before scoring on Mark Shkrelja's single to left that nudged the lead to 3-1.
New Haven had two on with one out in the bottom of the eighth when Saint Thomas Aquinas pulled starter Chris Cepeda in favor of George Navadel, who immediately induced a 1-6-3 inning-ending double play to thwart the threat.
Shkrelja added some insurance for the Spartans in the ninth with an RBI triple to right that made it 4-1.
Cepeda (7-3) allowed just one run – unearned – on four hits, while striking out five and walking one, over seven-and-a-third innings. Cepeda retired 13-in-a-row in the fourth through eighth innings. Navadel picked up his eighth save of the season with an inning-and-two-thirds hitless frames, allowing just a walk.
Palmer was charged with three runs – two earned – on six hits, fanning 10 and walking three, in six-and-two-thirds.
Dawber went a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, while Shkrelja was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI. Lucchese finished 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run, with Ruiz going 1-for-3 with a walk, RBI and run.
Chamberlain (walk, run) and Tom Walraven were both 1-for-3, with Jack Zagaja and Joe Caico each finishing 1-for-4.
St. Thomas Aquinas will now take on top-seeded Southern New Hampshire University in a winner's bracket contest Saturday at 7 p.m., while New Haven meets fifth-seeded Felician University on Saturday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game
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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