Dover baseball team aims to shine again on new diamond

With Jordan Hutchins at shortstop, Dover has reached the semifinals of the state tournament each of the last three seasons. (Delaware State News file photo)

With Jordan Hutchins at shortstop, Dover has reached the semifinals of the state tournament each of the last three seasons. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Three years ago, Dave Gordon stood in front of the Dover High baseball team as it sat on the dugout bench after a 10-run defeat.

Gordon told the Senators he was switching up the whole lineup and proceeded to talk to them about what they needed to do to be better.

Sitting on that bench was a freshman named Jordan Hutchins.

As Gordon spoke, he looked at Hutchins and called him out in front of the entire team.

“I stared at him right in his face and said, ‘By the way, you’re starting at shortstop tomorrow,’” Gordon recalls. “He’s a freshman in front of all these older guys. It was silent and I heard one of my seniors, Colin Stein, say as he’s walking out of the dugout, ‘Is he really benching Nick Spadafino?’”

The answer to that question was no.

Spadafino was an All-State player and all Gordon was doing was moving him to third base to make room for Hutchins. That new-look lineup received its first taste of action a day later and posted a 6-1 victory over Appoquinimink.

“We won that day and Jordan had a base hit with an RBI and made five or six plays at short,” Gordon said. “He’s been there ever since.”

“I never thought of it as playing varsity or JV,” Hutchins said. “It’s just baseball. It was just playing baseball and that’s the same thing.”

With Hutchins at shortstop, Dover has reached the semifinals of the DIAA state tournament each of the last three seasons.

But Hutchins is one of the few familiar faces left on Dover’s roster after the Senators graduated 12 seniors from last year’s team.

Seniors Tevin Thomas, Garrett Lawson, Triston Harris and Tyler Rosello all have at least two years experience on varsity, but a lot of players will make their varsity debuts when Dover opens at Lake Forest on March 22 at 4:15 p.m.

The players aren’t the only thing that’s new this season. After an extra season spent at the old high school, Dover will debut its new stadium, located beyond the tennis courts, on March 30 against Polytech at 4:15 p.m.

“The kids are super excited and we’ve got a great facility,” Gordon said. “The district really stepped up and provided us with some equipment and a great field. Hopefully we can provide everybody with a great season. … I like this field. It’s a little far (from the school) but I think kids can walk over and get their thoughts together for practice.

“We have no distractions. It’s a good situation. If you’re a young kid in Dover and you want to play baseball, I think this is the place you’ve got to be.”

“We’ve just got to make it home like the old field was,” Lawson said. “It’s been great getting back into the swing of things. It’s all new.”

New field or not, the Senator players are bringing the same expectations with them into the new season. Of those three consecutive semifinal defeats, the last two have come to the eventual state champion.

“I just want a ring,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to get over the hump. We’ve still got a lot of talent. They’re young guys, but I think they’ll fit in perfect with what we’ve got here. I think we’ll have a great year. It’s a whole new family for us and we’ll do the best we can to work with it. They can do the same things the old squad did, I think we’ll be ready to compete every game.”

“I don’t think a lot of people expect a lot from us but we have high expectations and I think we’ll be just fine,” Hutchins said.

Gordon did say this is perhaps the most versatile team he’s had while at Dover.

Lawson has the most pitching experience and can also play first base when not on the mound. Gordon said Hutchins will have more opportunities to pitch this season if the Senators need him.

Newcomers who will join the pitching staff are juniors Joey Wunsch and Jared Hickox.

Thomas has two years experience as Dover’s second baseman and Rosello has appeared at first base at various times since his freshman season. Harris was a starter in the outfield last year and has been on varsity since he was a sophomore.

“It’s been a great feeling getting into baseball season,” Harris said. “The team’s looking good. We’re working on building together as a team and hopefully we’ll come out with a lot of ‘W’s this season. We have a great team chemistry together, a lot of athleticism and a lot of guys that just love to play the game of baseball. You can’t ask for anything else.”

Dover will have a new starting catcher in junior Dimitri Floyd. Seniors Semaj Kelly and Terren Yanero are also slotted for starting roles after a year spent as backups to last season’s large senior class.

While on paper that looks like a lot of inexperience, Gordon is quick to point out those players were successful at the junior varsity level, only losing three games in the last two seasons.

“Those kids probably could have gone to any other school and been a starter right away,” Gordon said. “For us, they came in, bought into the program, played a lot on the junior varsity level to learn and then they come in here and they don’t look like a deer in the headlights. We expect a lot of big things for them and we’re going to throw them into the fire right away.”

And those veterans will remind everyone of how close Dover has come to a state title the last three years.

“Jordan’s been there when we’ve lost our last game of the year,” Gordon said. “Tevin was in the dugout three straight years, Tyler was in the dugout for three straight years. Garrett and Triston have been there the last two years. These guys have had a taste of a lot of success but they’ve also had that bitter taste when it ends. They want to get over the hump.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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