Cape Henlopen defeats Caravel 5-3 to win school’s first baseball state crown

Cape Henlopen players and coaches celebrate after Monday’s state final victory over Caravel. Delaware State News/Tim Mastro

WILMINGTON — Every year for the past four seasons the Cape Henlopen High baseball team was deep and talented.

Yet something would always happen to prevent the Vikings from winning that elusive state title — until now.

Senior David Erickson pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and the Vikings found enough runs for a 5-3 victory over Caravel Academy in the DIAA state championship game on Monday night at Frawley Stadium. It is the first state title in program history.

As freshmen this senior class lost in the championship. They then suffered quarterfinal exits as sophomores and juniors in games both contested at Frawley Stadium.

“Believe me I remember ever single little bit of that,” said Cape senior shortstop Zack Gelof — the 2018 state Player of the Year. “Every year it hurt more. That’s what we kept working hard for, the whole team.”

The Vikings became the first Henlopen Conference school to win the baseball state championship since Seaford High in 1993.

Cape Henlopen scored five runs in the first five innings to build its 5-0 lead. That held up behind Erickson’s effort until Caravel threatened for the first time in the sixth.

The Buccaneers, the defending state champions, loaded the bases with no outs and scored their first two runs on Joey Silan’s RBI single. They brought home another run with a single by Ethan DeRegis.

With runners on second and third, the Vikings received a gem of a catch with one out to escape the only trouble Erickson ran into all night.

Second baseman Luke Johnson made a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch on a blooper in shallow right field. The runner at third had already reached home and the Vikings were able to double him off to get out of the inning.

“I have not made many plays like that in my life,” Johnson said. “That was a great play.”

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Erickson said. “I was hoping for the best and the best turned out. Running back and sliding, that’s a great play. That’s a Major League play.”

Erickson took the mound for the seventh inning seven pitches shy of the 105-pitch limit for a single game. He used those seven pitches to record a popout and a groundout before giving way to Mason Fluharty for the final out.

Fluharty struck out the game’s last batter, tossing his glove high into the air before being met by his teammates along the third base line as they piled onto one another.

“These guys had so much pressure on them to do this right here,” said Cape Henlopen coach Ben Evick, a 1995 Cape graduate.

“They stuck to the plan, it didn’t happen the first three years and they just kept pounding and believed in themselves.”

Gelof, who will play at the University of Virginia next year, got things started for the Vikings as the very first batter of the game. He launched a one-hop double off the wall in right field.

Senior Austin Elliott, a University of North Carolina commit, brought him home with a flyball to deep left-center. The ball was caught on the warning track and Caravel’s centerfielder fell down, allowing Gelof to score all the way from second.

Jake Gelof then plated a pair of runs in the third with a single through a drawn-in infield. Erickson helped himself in the fourth with a RBI-double while Zach Savage hit a RBI-double in the fifth.

Erickson made sure the lead would stand up.

The Liberty University signee retired the first five batters of the game before he allowed his first hit. He then reeled off 10 consecutive outs as he did not give up another hit until the sixth inning.

Erickson finished with nine strikeouts.

“He’s been our guy all year long,” Evick said. “This was a huge game for him. He came out and dealt.”

“My command was working very well,” Erickson said. “My fastball, I could spot it up pretty good. They would poke some balls out there, but my defense had my back.”

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