Dover baseball team eyes another state tournament run

“That day (state semifinal loss) is all I think about, it’s what motivates me to get out here and get better for my brothers,” said Dover senior Chris Dabney, shown above. Delaware State News file photos

DOVER — Chris Dabney received a picture before the first day of baseball practice this spring.

Turns out, everyone else on the Dover High baseball team was sent the picture too.

Dabney, a Dover senior, opened it and saw the scoreboard from Dover’s extra-inning defeat to Cape Henlopen High in the semifinals of last year’s state tournament. The picture was from head coach Dave Gordon.

“That day is all I think about, it’s what motivates me to get out here and get better for my brothers,” Dabney said.

Dover wants to be right back on that stage this season. The Senators should be right in the thick of things once again as they only lost one starter from that semifinal team.

Dover’s semifinal heartbreak started a streak of oh-so-close moments for the school over the last calendar year.

The football team went 9-1 and was leading in the semifinals of the Division I state tournament before giving up a last-second touchdown to Sussex Central. The boys’ basketball team was 24-0 but fell in the title game to Sanford after it held a one-point lead in the final minute.

So this group of baseball players would love to break through and earn some hardware for the school.

The Senators’ Nathan Turner (11) is greeted by teammates after driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of last year’s state semifinals.

“Honestly the way football and basketball seasons ended I feel like the school overall is motivated to put a good product on the field,” Gordon said. “Some of those kids were part of those teams and they were all fans of it.”

Last year’s semifinal appearance was the fifth in six seasons for the Senators. but they haven’t reached a state championship game during that span.

The loss to Cape Henlopen might have been the toughest to take out of the five. Dover fell to the Vikings 8-2 during the regular season but gave the eventual state champions all they could handle in the postseason.

Dover was down to its last strike in the seventh before an RBI-single by Alec Rodriguez tied it. The Senators went ahead in the top of the 10th on Nathan Turner’s RBI-single.

But Cape Henlopen answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the 10th to send Dover home.

“We were right there and we could taste it,” said senior Sam Courtney. “We’re playing as hard as we can to prove what we got.”

“It makes us hungrier,” Turner, a junior, said. “I think this year we have even more energy than last year just because we know how close we were.”

Nearly all of the key characters from last year’s tournament run are back for the Senators.

First team All-Stater Dom Velazquez, a junior who is committed to the University of Delaware, anchors a pitching staff which includes seniors Hiram Davis, Michael Carrington and Andrew Carney. All of those players are expected to play in the field when they’re not on the mound.

Rodriguez, Turner, Courtney and Dylan Jacobs are also back. Dabney was the designated-hitter last season but will move to catcher after Noah Lanouette graduated.

Gordon said there’s a solid group of players who spent two seasons on junior varsity who are ready to move up including Jeremy Steele,
Keon Malone and Mason Greene. Gabe Skay also joins the team as a transfer from Polytech plus Jordan Magee, who is signed to play football at Temple University, is a new addition to the squad.

“We got a bunch of dogs out here that are willing to fight for each other,” Dabney said. “Everybody comes to work everyday. Everyone knows they have a role to play whether you’re starting or you’re on the bench.

“We’ve been together for years and we play well together,” Courtney said. “We pretty much started together since we were 8-years-old and we’ve been rolling ever since. We’ve been clicking for a long time.”

Dover’s season starts with a road game at Sussex Central on Friday at 4:15 p.m. Its first home game is the following Tuesday against Lake Forest also at 4:15 p.m.

The Senators hope the year ends with another trip to Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium — the home of the state semifinals and finals.

“Every kid’s dream is to be there the last game of the year cheering, not crying,” Gordon said. “I don’t think that defines us but it’d be nice to catch a break or two up there and get in that last game and see what happens.”

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