Athlete of the Week: Dover’s Velazquez has lived up to his potential

A year ago, Dom Velazquez allowed only seven runs and struck out 76 batters in 52 innings. In three seasons, he owns a record of 18-2 with 203 strikeouts in 134.2 innings with a 1.50 ERA. Delaware State News file photos

(EDITOR’S NOTE: With the high school sports world on hold, we’re going to continue our Athlete of the Week feature with a little different format. We’re going to recognize a downstate senior athlete by sport for their career accomplishments. This week, Dover High’s Dominic Velazquez won our readers’ poll for baseball.)

DOVER — Dom Velazquez didn’t really pitch much as an eighth-grader at Central Middle School.

It wasn’t that the youngster wasn’t good at it.

The Senators simply didn’t have anyone capable of catching the hard-throwing Velazquez at the time.

But Dover High coach Dave Gordon remembers seeing the righthander pitch in a Senior League all-star game before his freshman year.

“Dom dominated the entire game,” said Gordon. “Like he struck everybody out. … You could hear the glove pop. For an all-star game, it was pretty impressive.”

Four years later, Velazquez has indeed proven to be one of the top players in the state.

Before the season was postponed, the senior was named a first-team pick on the coaches’ association pre-season All-State squad at both pitcher and third base. Gordon thinks Velazquez is one of the top players the proud program has ever produced.

“If you want to talk about the greatest kids ever — and we’ve had a great tradition — he’s definitely got to be in that argument,” said Gordon.

A year ago, Velazquez allowed only seven runs and struck out 76 batters in 52 innings. In three seasons, he owns a record 18-2 with 203 strikeouts in 134.2 innings with a 1.50 ERA.

Gordon said Velazquez’ strikeout total puts him among he top five in state history.

However this spring turns out, Dom Velazquez still has plenty of baseball left in front of him. He verbally committed to the University of Delaware a couple years ago.

The moment when Gordon realized that Velazquez was a special pitcher came in 2018 when 17th-seeded Dover was tied with Salesianum in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Sals had the bases loaded with nobody out when Gordon sent the sophomore out to the mound.

“If Sallies moves up 90 more feet, our season is over,” said Gordon. “He comes on the mound and goes, ‘All I want to do is throw fastballs.’ I go, ‘Fair enough,’ and I give him the ball.”

“I knew I could do it,” said Velazquez, “but it was nerve-wracking.”

Sure enough, Velazquez struck out the side on just 10 pitches. Then, after the Senators scored a run in the top of the eighth, Velazquez struck out the side again to seal the upset victory.

“In that moment, he just went from being a boy to a young man right there,” said Gordon. “That quick.”

“I just like that I’m in control, me and Gordon,” Velazquez said about pitching. “The pressure’s never really gotten to me. I’ve never backed down from it.”

Velazquez is also pretty dangerous as a hitter. His career batting average is .345 with 40 runs scored and 44 walks. His on-base percentage is .533.

Of course, that’s what makes it so frustrating that Velazquez, and every other spring-sport athlete, can’t play right now. Gordon said Velazquez looked sharp in a scrimmage, striking out five of the six batters he faced.

“He was ready to roll,” said Gordon. “I think he’s texted me every single night.”

“It’s hard because you’ve been going at it for four years now,” said Velazquez. “You never miss a workout, you never miss practice. Then there’s kids that are just getting their chance to play and it’s getting stripped from them — especially for the kids that will never be able to play again.”

However this spring turns out, Velazquez still has plenty of baseball left in front of him. He verbally committed to the University of Delaware a couple years ago.

He knows his future is as a pitcher.

“I’m just looking forward to having ‘Delaware’ across my chest, just meeting new faces and traveling,” said Velazquez. “I’m ready. I think I can help right away.”