Graham sets the table in 9-5 Dover win

22dsn Smyrna vs Dover Baseball 001

Dover’s Dakota Graham hustles to beat out an infield single. (Dave Chambers/Delaware State News)

 

SMYRNA — Whenever leadoff batter Dakota Graham was up on Tuesday, he got on base.

Whenever Graham got on base, he scored.

It’s a cycle that the Dover High baseball team has grown accustomed to this season.

“I love leading off,” Graham said. “It lets me set the table for the team and help bring energy.”

Graham went 4-for-4, scored four times and knocked in a pair of runs as the Senators earned a Henlopen Conference victory over Smyrna, 9-5, on the road.

Dover (6-1) has now won two in a row since dropping its first game of the season last Wednesday against Sussex Tech. Smyrna (6-3) saw its five-game winning streak come to a close.

Graham, a senior who has signed to play for Eastern Kentucky University, broke the game open in the fourth with a two-run double down the right field line to give Dover a 6-3 lead.

He scored the contest’s opening run in the first on an RBI-single by cleanup batter Kendall Small. He scored twice on passed balls later in the game and was also knocked in by an RBI-single by No. 3 hitter Jordan Hutchins.

“He knows it’s his last ride with Dover baseball and he wants to go out on top,” said Dover coach Dave Gordon. “He sets the table for us and when he gets on, guys want to knock him in.

“I think you’re starting to see why schools were calling him and there’s a reason why he’s going away,” Gordon added. “I’m proud of him, he’s off to a great start. We’re going to keep him humble and keep him working.”

Graham batted leadoff as a sophomore with Dover, but bounced in between the third and leadoff spot last season before moving down the order later in the season. Graham led the Senators in RBI as they made it to the state semifinals.

This year however, Graham has blossomed in his familiar role as the table setter.

“I’m just trying to barrel it up, nice and easy swings,” Graham said. “I’m just sticking with my approach and not taking big swings, just trying to get base hits.”

Four different pitchers threw at least one inning for the Senators.

Jared Rowley threw the first two innings before Dallas Willey came on in the third to help Dover strand a pair of runners with a 4-3 lead. Garrett Lawson entered the game in the fifth and Hutchins closed it out.

With their next game not until Saturday, the Senators had plenty of pitching available. That’s also because Small went deep into the game on Saturday when Dover beat Appoquinimink in a nonconference matchup to preserve some of its arms.

“The schedule is a little flexible right now and Kendall had a great start on Saturday to open things up for us,” Gordon said. “I told the kids it’s like game seven of the World Series and I’m going to use everybody. I used most of them in there. It was a nice team win. I moved some pieces around and I was very happy with the result.”

Dover took the lead for good in the top of the third when Andrew Mace doubled, Graham singled and Aaron Jenkins walked to load the bases with no outs. The Senators plated three in the inning on a single by Hutchins, a passed ball and a sacrifice fly by Small.

Lawson added a solo home run in the top of the sixth. He belted a long fly ball to straightaway center that cleared the wall right over the 365-foot sign.

“I didn’t realize how far it went until I heard everyone cheering so I looked up and that thing was in the sky,” Lawson said. “I had no idea. All I knew is that I hit a ball hard and made contact. Dakota said before the game if you hit a home run here you would have earned it.”

Justin Jones led Smyrna with two hits and two RBI. Nolan Henderson had one RBI while Corey Everage reached base three times and knocked in a run.

Dover escaped two bases-loaded jams without giving up a run. In the first, Rowley struck out the side to get out of trouble and in the fifth Mace, Dover’s catcher, picked off a runner at first for the final out of the inning.

“Our whole team is made of guys who can come in and get the job done,” Lawson said. “There’s plenty of guys in the dugout who can come in and perform when their number is called. That’s what winning is all about.”

Staff writer Tim Mastro can be reached at tmastro@newszap.com or 741-8224.

Follow @TimMastroDSN on Twitter.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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