Dover’s Quirk sparks rally to beat top seed William Penn in baseball

NEW CASTLE — On the bus ride up to William Penn High, Dover High coach Dave Gordon grabbed senior Sean Quirk.

“I said, ‘Sean I’m going to call your number, I know it’s going to happen. You’ve got to be ready,” Gordon said.

In the fifth inning, Gordon found Quirk again in the dugout and repeated the same thing — be ready. Gordon reminded Quirk again in the sixth.

Sure enough, in the top of the seventh, Gordon went to Quirk as a pinch-hitter with a runner in scoring position.

Quirk’s go-ahead single sparked a five-run seventh as Dover upset top overall seed William Penn 7-2 in the DIAA state baseball tournament on Saturday afternoon. The 17th-seeded Senators also received a gem from sophomore starter Dom Velazquez who struck out 11 on his way to the victory.

The Senators (13-6) ended William Penn’s 15-game winning streak and will face No. 8 seed Salesianum School (13-6) on Wednesday in the quarterfinals at a time and location to be determined.

Dave Gordon

Quirk, one of Dover’s senior-captains, had been out of the starting lineup for more than a month entering Saturday. He spent most of his junior year only playing in the field after being called up to varsity for the first time as a sophomore in 2016 and was on the bench when Dover fell to St. Mark’s in the state semifinals that year.

“I saw that senior class lose at Frawley Stadium and how much it hurt them,” Quirk said. “They were crying on the bus back. It stuck with me that image of just how much it meant to them. I’m done if we lose. This is all I have. I was glad I could help us keep playing.”

Christopher Dabney began the rally in the seventh inning with a leadoff single. After a strikeout, Nathan Turner reached on an error and Quirk entered the game as a pinch-hitter with two on and one out.

Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Quirk slapped a hard grounder up the middle to score Dabney.

“Coach Gordon has been saying everyone was going to get their shot and that’s what I was waiting on,” Quirk said. “I wasn’t trying to do anything special, just hit a hard groundball up the middle or to the right side and get that one run. It just snowballed into five runs in the seventh.”

“We talk about guys buying in and accepting their role,” Gordon said. “Sean kept his mouth shut for the last month and half. He’s a great senior captain and just a great kid, a great Dover kid.”

The floodgates opened after that.

Velazquez reached on an error to knock in the second run. Freshman Alec Rodriguez then pulled a high drive down the rightfield line for a two-RBI triple. Noah Lanouette capped the rally by plating Rodriguez on another error.

Velazquez surrendered one base-runner before inducing a popout to second for the first out of the bottom of the seventh as the right-hander reached the pitch count limit with 106 pitches. He was replaced by junior left-hander Andrew Carney.

Carney needed one pitch to end it on a double play.

Velazquez’s first five outs of the contests were strikeouts. The University of Delaware commit stranded two runners in both the third and fourth innings to keep Dover in the lead before the Colonials eventually tied the game in the bottom of the fifth.

It was Velazquez’s state tournament debut. He led the Senators in wins last year but could not pitch in the state tournament after injuring his hand in the final month of the season.

“I wanted it bad because I’ve never been in the state tournament before,” Velazquez said. “To come out here and pitch against the No. 1 seed, it’s amazing.”

“I think he wants the ball every single time he gets a chance,” Gordon said. “I think you see why University of Delaware locked him up pretty quick. Hats off to coach (Jim) Sherman for doing that. He’s a blue-collar, bring your lunch-pail to work type of Dover kid. He reminds me a lot of (former Dover and UD starter) Nick Spadafino, maybe even a little bit better. We feel confident when he’s on the mound and he did the job.”

Mike Carrington staked Dover to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run homer to left. William Penn scored its first run in the third on Zach Pritchard’s RBI-double and tied the game on a double steal in the fifth.

Dover had a runner thrown out at the plate for the final out of the sixth inning, setting the stage for Quirk’s heroics in the seventh.

The Senators have now reached at least the state quarterfinals five of the last six seasons.

“We came up with confidence because we’ve been in the tournament nine straight years,” Gordon said. “I do have a young club but they were in the tournament last year and some were with us when we lost to St. Mark’s in the semis (two years ago). We preached all year, just get in and give us a chance.”

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