Eagles blank Panthers, eye first North baseball title

Zachary Zlock of Smyrna slides face-first across home plate to score from third base on a passed ball during Monday’s game against Polytech. Pitcher Joey Haass moves in to cover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Zachary Zlock of Smyrna slides face-first across home plate to score from third base on a passed ball during Monday’s game against Polytech. Pitcher Joey Haass moves in to cover. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

SMYRNA — Two batters into the game, John Barkley was dealing with two runners in scoring position and no outs.

From that point on, though, Barkley was on cruise control.

Barkley fought his way out of a first-inning jam and pitched five shutout innings as Smyrna High defeated Polytech 10-0 in six innings in a Henlopen Conference baseball contest on Monday afternoon.

“I just had to get dialed in,” Barkley said. “I wasn’t feeling well in the first inning, but once I got through it I was dialed in.”

The victory puts Smyrna on the precipice of something that has never been done in school history.

If the Eagles can win one of their final two remaining games, they will earn their first Henlopen Conference Northern Division championship in baseball. Smyrna (11-0 North, 14-2 overall) hasn’t won a division title since 1996, when the Eagles were in the Henlopen South.

“We try not to talk about it,” coach Mike Henderson said. “But I wouldn’t trade places right now,”

Smyrna ends the regular season against a pair of Henlopen North opponents. The Eagles play today at Cape Henlopen (4:15 p.m.) and on Thursday at Caesar Rodney (4:15 p.m.).

With that in mind, Barkley was taken out of the game after five innings in case he’s needed for the upcoming games. Nolan Henderson pitched a scoreless sixth before Smyrna scored a run in the bottom of the sixth for the 10-run mercy rule.

“It was just what we needed,” Mike Henderson said.

Barkley survived the first inning without giving up any runs despite Polytech getting runners to second and third. Barkley induced a groundout to third baseman Jared Gillis, who made sure to hold the runner at third, for the first out before a strikeout and another groundout ended the inning.

Barkley just got better as the game went along, striking out the side on nine pitches in the fourth.

“He did a good job without his best stuff in the first inning,” Henderson said. “Then he started rolling. He was rolling through the middle innings.”

Nolan Henderson also helped save a run in the third with a diving catch on a sinking liner in centerfield.

The Eagles first got on the board with four runs in the bottom of the second. The scoring was highlighted by Shawn Dulin’s RBI single and the Eagles also benefited from three walks, a hit batter, an error and a bunt hit in the inning.

Jared Gillis added to the Smyrna lead by knocking a single up the middle in the fourth to put the Eagles up 5-0 before Henderson followed with a sacfrifice fly.

By the time the inning was over, Smyrna was up 9-0 thanks to Zach Zlock’s RBI single and a single by Dylan Snow which drove in a pair of runs.

Gillis recorded the Eagles’ first extra-base hit of the day with a RBI double to end the game in the sixth.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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