RINDGE, N.H. -- St. Thomas Aquinas upset top-seed Franklin Pierce 3-0 in the opener of the NCAA Division II East Regional as Matt Kostolos fanned eight and scattered six hits in going the distance. The Spartans improved to 28-17-1, dropping the Ravens to 46-3 and snapping the host's 27 game winning streak.
For St. Thomas Aquinas, the underdog role was nothing new, as the defending East Region champs won their fifth consecutive game in regional action, raising their all time record in the NCAA tourney to 5-5.
STAC now advances in the winner's bracket and will play at 3:00 pm Friday in tournament Game 5, facing the loser of tonight's contest between Wilmington and Southern New Hampshire.
Jay Jabs laced a one out triple in the bottom of the first to cause a threat, but Kostolos would rebound to escape trouble. That would give his Spartans a chance to grab the lead with the game's only runs on the top of the third.
Rich Baerga started the ball rolling with a bit of good fortune, as his broken-bat grounder trickled past Pierce starter Mike Lundin for an infield hit. The senior proceeded to steal second and Joe Pena's perfect bunt single moved the runner up, but third baseman Jabs' errant throw brought Baerga in with the game's first tally, with Pena holding at first.
Pena would then steal second and move to third with one down on a grounder to second by Stanley Susana. Nick Gargan followed with a strikeout, but Lundin was unable to escape further damage, with Giovanni Dingcong's chopping RBI single making the score 2-0. Christian Santo then singled, and a double-steal along with Dingcong put runners at second and third.
Brandon Fischer walked to load the bags and Rich Cesca, Jr., STAC's hottest post-season hitter, came through with a run-scoring to put the visitors up by a trio of runs.
Kostolos sailed through the first four, including striking out the side on 10 pitches in the fourth, until running into some trouble in the fifth. The right-hander helped his own cause by snaring Kurtis White's hot liner through the box, and eventually induced Northeast-10 Player of the Year Jay Jabs to pop up with the bases loaded to escape the jam.
That would be the last serious threat posed by Franklin Pierce, which was held to just a pair of singles in the last four innings as Kostolos improved to 8-4 on the season. Lundin was tagged with his first loss, dropping to 8-1 overall, while teammate Paul Fahey provided five strong scoreless innings out of the pen.
Pena, Dingcong, and Santo each had a pair of hits in the Spartans' nine-hit effort, with Maxx Sheehan adding a pair for Pierce.