District I wins Big League East Regional tourney opener

DOVER — With the constant threat of a weather postponement looming over its opening game, the Delaware District I all-stars had the right guy on the mound.

Dillon Cole worked quickly and effectively, the rain held off and the Kent County all-stars opened their Big League East Regional tournament with a victory.

Cole struck out five in four scoreless innings while allowing just one hit as host Delaware District I defeated Rhode Island 9-2 on Saturday night. District I will face Connecticut tonight in the second round at 7:30 p.m.

“I always like getting the ball quick and working fast,” Cole said. “Going slow, I just don’t do as well. They were swinging at a lot of first pitches and our defense was making plays. Everything worked pretty well.”

While it never rained, the game was delayed for 40 minutes due to lightning in the area in the top of the fifth when District I held a 4-0 lead. That led to Cole, a 2015 Lake Forest High grad who now plays at Delaware Tech, being taken out of the game, but that might be a blessing in disguise since his pitch count is low enough to start another game in the tournament.

“Dillon pitched a heck of a game,” said manager L.B. Stubbs. “He got us through four and kept his pitch count down so we can come back and use him later in the tournament.”

“I knew going in I had to keep my pitch count down too,” Cole said. “I had to pump strikes in there. Pitch-ing is somewhat limited in this tournament, you got four games in four days so you got to keep that pitch count down.”

Tyler Collins led the District I offense with a pair of RBI and a triple.

He was up when the game restarted and didn’t wait long after the delay, belting the first pitch he saw up against the wall in right for a triple. Cole Garey then drove him in with a double over the Rhode Island centerfielder’s head.

“I knew since the break he wasn’t going to come out with junk he was going to try to get ahead and I was ready for it,” Collins said of his triple. “I saw something I could drive.”

This was after a four-run third inning by District I.

The third inning rally began with back-to-back walks to Jordan Simpson and Tommy Jordan. Quintin Ivy plated the first run of the game when he bounced a single through the hole between shortstop and third to score Simpson.

Collins then pulled a liner into the gap in right-center to knock in Jordan from second base and sent Ivy to third. Ivy scored on the next pitch when he stole home off of a double steal.

After Garey was hit by a pitch, Cole bunted to put two runners in scoring position. John Barkley added the fourth run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to left.

“That opened up the floodgates a little,” Stubbs said.

Rhode Island threatened in the bottom of the fifth when it loaded the bases with no outs and District I surrendered one run on a walk.

Rhode Island attempted a suicide squeeze, but popped up the bunt. District I pitcher Jared Hickox scampered off the mound to catch the ball in the air and doubled off the runner at third. He then retired the next batter on a grounder to short to escape further trouble.

Hickox again prevented a big inning in the sixth when Rhode Island loaded the bases before Hickox painted the inside corner for a called strike three for the final out of the inning. Louis Whitaker tossed the seventh to finish up for District I.

District I got four insurance runs in the final two innings. Collins earned his second RBI on a bases load-ed walk in the sixth before a three-run top of the seventh that was highlighted by a Hickox two-RBI double down the line in left.

“You want to get that first win out of the way,” Collins said. “It gives you some confidence and you know if you keep playing good ball you’ll be in a good spot.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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