From the sports editor: Two teams stand out in softball

If you want to start talking about all-time great downstate softball teams, you don’t have to look far.

Ever since Milford out-dueled William Penn, 15-13, to win the first official DIAA state crown in 1976, Henlopen Conference softball squads have more than held their own.

Of the 14 longest-tenured members of the Henlopen Conference, nine have won at least one state championship in the sport. And 11 of the 14 have at least reached the state finals.

All told, downstate programs have captured 17 softball state crowns — including 12 in the last 17 years.

So which is the best downstate softball squad ever? There’s a lot of teams out there that could make a case for that honor.

The two teams our readers pointed to this week were the 2015 Polytech squad and the ‘18 Smyrna squad.

Both teams finished 20-1. The Panthers’ 20-0 win over Caravel featured both the most runs scored in a state title game and the largest margin of victory.

The Eagles were pretty dominant, too, downing Appoquinimink, 16-7, in the finals.

Polytech out-scored its opponents by a 193-25 margin with 11 shutouts. Smyrna finished with a 201-43 run differential and seven shutouts.

Both state crowns were particularly special for the two teams, as well.

The Panthers’ state title was their first. The Eagles’ state championship was only their second and first since 1993.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that,” Polytech coach Jenn Bradshaw said after the title game. “It was just incredible. … I’ve been trying to do this since I was 15 playing high school ball.”

“To watch these girls work as hard as they did and be able to bring the title back to our town is a wonderful feeling,” Smyrna coach Nicki Shirey said after her team won the crown.

So what does that all mean?

It means that Polytech and Smyrna were both really, really good in their state championship seasons.

Tough ending

The news on Friday that Delaware schools would remain closed for the rest of the year was no doubt crushing for spring-sport high school seniors.

With schools closed, there’s no chance of high schools getting in a few last games this spring.

But while many of the seniors really wanted one more chance to try to win a state championship, the ones I talked to didn’t mention titles.

Instead, they usually talked about taking the field with their friends one last time, or representing their school or having the Senior Night they’d seen previous teammates have.

Dover High girls’ lacrosse player Amanda Dill could have been talking for countless other senior student-athletes a couple weeks ago.

“I can’t even put it into words how much it would mean to me,” Dill said about the chance to play again this spring. “I love lacrosse, I love my school. I love playing in games. Everyone is like, ‘You have college to play in after this.’ But it’s not the same. High school is definitely an experience that you only go through once.”

A song to sing

Ukee Washington has always been known as a man of many talents.

A basketball and track star at Dover High in the 1970s, he’s now known as a Hall of Fame TV newscaster in Philadelphia.

Washington is a pretty good singer, too.

Earlier this month, Washington put out a video of him singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” With music provided by keyboardist Billy Jolly, the video includes images of various people dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Dover High basketball standout Ukee Washington was on hand to watch the Senators play in the state finals last March. Delaware State News file photo

The video had over 60,000 views on YouTube by Saturday.

Washington, who sang in the Philadelphia Boys Choir as a youngster, played basketball at the University of Richmond.

“It’s been overwhelming. It’s been wonderful. It’s been very meaningful,” he said in a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Something to cheer

Even though the Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game has been canceled for this year, the DFRC wanted to recognize the participants.
Here are the members of the Gold cheerleading squad:

Delaney Caguin, Middletown; Rebecca Gibson, Smyrna; Alayzia Johnson, Laurel; Caitlyn Jones, Dover; Kassidy Jones, Dover; Skylar Luc, Appoquinimink; Kaila McCabe, Indian River; Ta’Lia Nunn, Smyrna; Taylea O’Connor, Middletown; Cheyenne Pfeiffer, Dover; Brianna Pickle, Lake Forest; Wrenn Springer, Sussex Tech; Alisiya Stephens, Smyrna; Laura Stremmel, Cape Henlopen; Olivia Thomas, St. Georges; Cameron Veazey, Sussex Tech; Airyanah Watson, Middletown; Marlee White, Indian River; Lily Wiley, Milford and Indya Wright, Woodbridge.