CR finds its way past Dover this time

 

Caesar Rodney’s Thomas Pomatto delivers a pitch against Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — Caesar Rodney High’s baseball players had been here before.

A year ago, the Riders watched a three-run lead against Dover disappear with a sixth-inning grand slam.

So when Andrew Carney smacked a two-run home run in the seventh to pull the Senators within one, you can’t blame CR’s players for feeling a little nervous.

But Riders’ pitcher Tommy Pomatto didn’t let the homer faze him, getting the final out on a groundball to seal CR’s 5-4 victory over Dover on a chilly Tuesday afternoon.

The hard-earned win snapped a three-year losing streak in the rivalry for the Riders (6-0 Henlopen Conference, 8-1 overall). It was their first win over the Senators (4-3, 5-3) since 2014.

“It got a little closer than I expected in the last inning,” said Pomatto. “Dover put up a great fight.

“We hadn’t beaten Dover, as a senior class, in football or baseball. Coming out here knowing we had a really great team this year, we were confident that would we could at least put up a great fight.”

“It’s never over with Dover,” said CR coach Jeff Gravatt. “They’re a group of battlers.

“Our team knows what that feels like. We were in that position last year with a three-run lead before giving up a grand slam in the sixth inning. We didn’t want to see deja vu again. But we knew Tommy was going to grind it out.”

Dover’s second baseman Dylan Jacobs throws to first base after catching a grounder against CR . (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Pomatto earned the victory by pitching a complete-game five-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

CR, however, trailed 1-0 before scoring two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth.

Senator starter Dominic Velazquez was dominant early, striking out the first seven batters he faced before finishing with 10 strikeouts in five innings.

In the fifth, the Riders strung together a Dover error, a sacrifice bunt and four straight walks to score their pair of runs.

Velazquez allowed only two hits in the contest. But the sophomore righthander left the game after his first two walks in the fifth. He had already thrown 100 of his maximum 105 pitches.

Trying to get Velazquez to throw a lot of pitches was part of the Riders’ strategy.

“Our offensive game plan was get their pitch count up and get Dom out,” said Gravatt. “He’s a great pitcher. We knew we were going to struggle to hit him — and we did.”

The Riders used three hits to come up with three big insurance runs in the sixth. Senior Peyton Lavender led off the inning with a double before Jackson Rall added an RBI single.

The Senators, though, helped out with a couple errors in the inning. That 5-1 advantage ended up being important when Dover rallied for three runs in the seventh.

Valazquez and Michael Carrington (1 RBI) both had two hits in the game for the Senators.

Dover’s Noah Lanouette takes a swing against CR. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“If you make six errors you’re not going to win any ballgame, period,” said Dover coach Dave Gordon. “I told them I liked that (late rally) but where were we one through six? We were sleeping a little bit.

“I think Tommy (Pomatto) threw well but unfortunately we dug ourselves a hole by throwing the ball around.”

With eight victories, CR has already surpassed its win total for each of the last two seasons in back-to-back 7-11 campaigns. The Riders, though, hope they’ll accomplish even more before the season is over.

“Last year, even though we struggled record-wise, we lost four or five close games in the last inning,” said Gravatt. “They know they can compete at this level. You can see the intensity. They never give up.

“This is one of the most gritty, old-school attitude teams I’ve ever coached. These kids will run through a brick wall if you tell them to.”

“It’s huge,” said Pomatto, who threw 99 pitches. “Still being undefeated (in conference), we’re really looking forward to putting up a fight and seeing what we can do.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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