Delaware South edged by Lehigh Valley 7-6 in 8 innings 7-6 in Carpenter Cup semifinals

Caesar Rodney’s Ryan Rigby. Delaware State News file photo

PHILADELPHIA — For one day, the Delaware South players got to live like Major Leaguers.

They were so close to living like that for another day.

Two runs in the top of the eighth by Lehigh Valley dealt Delaware South a 7-6 loss in the semifinals of the 34th annual Carpenter Cup on Monday afternoon. Lehigh Valley advanced to play another Pennsylvania team, Burlington County, in the championship game Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Delaware South has not won a Carpenter Cup title since 2000, but this was the second time in three seasons it reached the semifinals, hosted at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

“It’s a shame we lost but we all had a great experience up here,” said Sussex Tech sophomore Jason Shockley. “I feel like since we made it here we’ll have a lot more kids come out next year. I know I’m going to try to get a lot of guys to play and have some fun out here. I had a blast. I know I’m going to do it again and hopefully win something.”

Delaware South led 5-1 after two innings but could not hang on.

Lehigh Valley tied the game at 5-5 after it scored four runs in the top of the fifth. The rally was helped out by five walks from Delaware South pitchers, including three in a row at one point.

Still, following a rain delay, Delaware South was able to go back on top in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a RBI-single by Shockley to score Luke Smailer (Cape Henlopen).

But Lehigh Valley struck back with two more in the top of the eighth, aided by two walks and an error. Derek Holmes delivered the big blow for Lehigh Valley as his bloop single to center plated both the tying and go-ahead runs with two outs.

Lehigh Valley scored six of its seven runs after the mandatory substitution period between the fourth and sixth innings to ensure every position player can have one at-bat according to tournament rules.

“It’s an all-star tournament so the talent is going to be there coming off the bench,” said Delaware South coach Jeff Rodgers (St. Georges). “It’s a little disappointing. To their credit, their pitchers got better as the game progressed. It would have been nice to get a couple here and there after we got five runs in the first couple of innings but that’s baseball sometimes.”

Ryan Rigby led the Delaware South offense with a 2-for-3 performance and two RBI. The Caesar Rodney junior doubled in the first inning and scored before he sent a triple to the wall in left-centerfield in the second inning to knock in a pair.

“This whole experience is something I’ll remember forever,” Rigby said.

Nate Turner (Dover) and Robert Baxley (Cape Henlopen) also had RBI singles in the second inning. Nathan McGray of Lake Forest drove in Delaware South’s first run when he beat out an infield single to allow Rigby to score in the first.

Brand Hatch (Caesar Rodney), Dom Velazquez (Dover) and Smailer scored one run apiece. Shockley went 2-for-3, including his key hit in the seventh.

“I was in the bullpen for the first half of the game, soaking it all in and having fun with the guys,” Shockley said. “I got my chance to play and made something happen.”

Delaware South has won at least one game in the Carpenter Cup four years in a row.

Rodgers said the team was disappointed to not have a chance to play in the championship, but some postgame words from legendary former St. Andrew’s head coach Bob Colburn cheered him up as the team was on its way off the field.

“I don’t think there’s a person I respect more and he said, ‘I appreciate what you guys did because I think we gained a little more respect for Delaware baseball’” Rodgers said. “You never want to lose but that’s a nice way to leave out of here, to get those words from coach Colburn.”

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