MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Rob Frank tossed a complete-game victory Friday -- despite a 64-minute rain delay -- and striking out the side in the ninth to give St. Thomas Aquinas a 6-1 win over top-seeded Southern New Hampshire at the NCAA East Regional.
In the first, SNHU's Manny Cruz stroked a one-out single and CJ Ferriggi was unable to handle Al Stanton's grounder, putting two runners on. Riley Palmer put the Penmen on top with a single to right, but Frank would escape further damage and assume control from there.
Runs in NCAA Tournamment games have been hard to come by for the Spartans, plating only one over their first three games dating back to last season, all losses. That would come to an end on one big swing of the bat in the last of the third inning.
Stephen Sunday led off with a single and Deven Del Priore put in a bid with a warning track fly out to left field off starter Tim Viehoff. Two pitches later, Nick D'Angelo turned on a 1-0 offering, sending it deep over the left field fence and giving St. Thomas Aquinas its first lead in NCAA Tournament competition.
Stanley Susana ripped the next pitch down the third base line for a double and moved to third on a wild pitch, before coming home on Rich Baerga's perfect safety squeeze single down the first base line, making the score 3-1.
Frank began to find a rhythm, allowing just one more hit over the next four innings as the rain began falling in Manchester. In the bottom of the 5th, D'Angelo was the catalyst yet again, starting the inning with a single and advancing on Susana's sacrifice bunt. Kenny Kirshner followed with a walk but the rain intensified, forcing the tarp onto the field.
After a 64 minute rain delay, play resumed and on the very first pitch, Coach Scott Muscat put the pressure on with a successful double steal, moving runners to second and third with one down. Rich Baerga would tap back to the mound for the second out, but Derek Hirsch's grounder was thrown away by shortstop Manny Cruz, bringing in two unearned runs for a 5-1 gap.
Despite the long delay, Frank returned to the mound to start the 6th inning and caused concern by issuing a leadoff walk to Mike Mastroberti. That concern was short-lived, however, as Frank found the zone in a big way, striking out the next three batters to end the frame.
A one out bunt single in the top of the seventh caused no trouble for the STAC right-hander and his teammates would build another insurance run in the bottom half, starting with Kenny Kirshner's single. Baerga bunted him to second and Derek Hirsch did the trick, lining an RBI single into right-centerfield to make the score 6-1.
That would prove to be more than enough for Frank, who retired the last six SNHU batters in order, striking out the side in the ninth inning despite a pitch count that hit 142 in all. With the victory, Frank picked up his 18th careerwin, improving to 5-2 on the season, scattering four hits while striking out 13 and walking just three. Viehoff, who lasted just 2.1 innings, took the loss to fall to 5-3 overall.