Malone’s HR leads Dover to win over Cape Henlopen

Keon Malone smiles before rounding third base after hitting a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning for Dover against Cape Henlopen.

LEWES – It was his only at bat of the game, but it was all Keon Malone needed.

The Dover High junior stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh inning with the game tied and he delivered a two-run home run over the right field wall.

The go-ahead homer helped lead the Senators to a 4-1 Henlopen North victory over Cape Henlopen High in comeback fashion Thursday afternoon.

“We thought maybe he could square a ball up and he did. He smoked it,” explained Dover coach Dave Gordon. “I think every team gets excited when a guy comes out of the dugout off the bench and contributes for his team. They were fired up.”

“I just had to smile,” Malone said. “Good teams find a way to win. We feel like we’re heating up right now.”

The win snaps Dover’s three-game losing streak to the Vikings (9-4), marking its first head-to-head win since April 26, 2016.

Junior pitcher Dominic Velazquez battled through a sickness to toss a complete game four-hitter for Dover, striking out nine batters. He used just 90 pitches to pick up the win.

“Typical Dominic Velazquez,” said Gordon. “Shows three pitches, competes, finishes the game. He was very efficient, and he did a great job.”

Cape senior Mason Fluharty pitched 6.1 innings, striking out eight batters before being relieved by teammate Parker Brown in the seventh inning.

The Senators (12-1) avenged last season’s 6-5 extra-inning loss to the eventual state champion Vikings in the DIAA semifinals.

“There wasn’t much I had to say in the huddle today before the game,” said Gordon. “I could see it in their eyes. But I want to tip my cap to Mason, he threw a heck of a game.”

Velazquez also started that semifinal game on the mound, and the one-run loss was in the back of his mind when he took the mound this time around.

“We had a good day at practice, so we were just coming in here remembering how bad [that loss] felt, all the tears and pain,” he said. “So, we just wanted to come out here, play hard and win.”

Dover collected six hits, including the homer and a two-hit game from Andrew Carney. Velazquez, Nate Turner and Sam Courtney each recorded one hit.

Junior Luke Johnson and seniors Luke Smailer, Grant Evans and Logan Dominick each recorded hits for Cape.

The Vikings struck first, breaking up a scoreless game with a run scored by Evans on a passed ball in the bottom of the third inning.

Both teams combined for seven strikeouts and just two hits in the scoreless fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Dover trailed 1-0 entering the top of the seventh inning before a one-out Hiram Davis walk sparked the team’s four-run rally.

After Davis stole second base, Courtney drove him in on an RBI single to right field to knot the game, 1-1.

Malone hit his homer on a 3-2 count in the next at-bat to put the Senators ahead and Velazquez drove in sophomore Alec Rodriguez on a sacrifice fly three at bats later to cap the rally.

“We got a guy on, moved him around, and then Sam Courtney had a nice RBI single,” explained Gordon. “Then we made the decision to go with a pinch-hitter and Keon stepped up there, so we’re happy with that.”

Three consecutive strikeouts in the bottom half of the inning put the finishing touches on Dover’s comeback.

“We’re feeling good,” said Velazquez. “We just have to keep taking it one game at a time and keep working hard.”

“Last year this squad went on a magical run, we got most of our guys back, so we’re just going to keep grinding, keep showing up to practice and get ready for Snow Hill, Md. on Saturday,” Gordon said.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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