Dover and Cape Henlopen set for baseball tourney rematch

Dover’s Andrew Carney scores a run in last year’s epic semifinal where Cape Henlopen defeated Dover 6-5 in 10 innings on its way to the state championship.

DOVER — Nathan Turner was standing in right field on the play.

So he had a great view of the baseball soaring over the head of Dover High’s centerfielder.

It was heartbreaking.

“When that ball went over the centerfielder’s head, it was like one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt,” said Turner. “As soon as that ball went up, I was like, ‘Oh jeez,’

“It was very painful,” he added. “We were an out away from (playing for) a state championship.”

A year later, the Senators haven’t forgotten that gut-wrenching loss, of course — especially now that they’re facing Cape in the state tournament again.

Fourth-seeded Dover (16-3) hosts the No. 13 Vikings (15-5) today at 4 p.m. in the DIAA state tournament quarterfinals. In the other quarter involving a downstate team, No. 8 Sussex Tech (15-5) goes to top-seeded Appoquinimink (19-0) for a 4 p.m. contest.

In that state semifinal matchup last season, Cape Henlopen rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to pull out a 6-5 victory.

The Vikings were down to their last strike when Timmy Vitella singled off the glove of a Dover infielder to bring home the tying run. Two batters later, Jake Gelof scored Vitella with the tying run on his hit to deep center.

The Senators have used the frustration of that loss to motivate them ever since. Dover puts the score of that game up on its scoreboard for every practice.

“We fought so hard — so hard,” said Senators’ senior Hiram Davis. “We thought we had them. That one ball hit to third (by Vitella), off of the glove, boom. It was inches. It’s just crazy.”

“That hurt,” said junior Dom Velazquez, who was the starting pitcher in the game. “We just remember all the pain and tears.

“We were up and they would just find a way every time. They’d just come back. We were so close. We could have been in the championship.”

The two teams have reversed roles since last season.

This time Dover is the Henlopen Conference champion and the higher seed. The Senators edged Cape, 4-1, on May 2 when Keon Malone‘s two-run homerun sparked a four-run sixth inning.

But, despite losing several top players from last year’s squad, the Vikings have won six games in a row since an 8-7 loss to Polytech on May 7. Cape just avenged one regular-season loss by getting past fifth-seeded Milford, 3-2, in Saturday’s state tournament second round.

St. Mark’s — which has done it four times — is the only baseball program to repeat as state champion since Concord in 1981-82.

“I called them ‘Team U.S.A.’ last year,” Dover coach Dave Gordon said about the Vikings. “We were just a bunch of misfits and they had all the names and (college) commitments. I thought we had them to the brink. We’ll see what happens.”

“They knocked us out last year in the playoffs,” said Turner. “It’d be great to get a win against them in the playoffs this year.”

Notes

With Dover and Cape squaring off, the Henlopen Conference is guaranteed of having a team in Thursday’s semifinals. The winner of the contest will play the winner of the Appo-Sussex Tech game on Thursday at Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium at either 4 or 7 p.m. … The Henlopen hasn’t put teams in back-to-back state finals since 1993 — Caesar Rodney (‘93) and Seaford (‘92-’91). … Sussex Tech didn’t face Appo during the regular season but the two teams did scrimmage in March.  

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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