Semifinal thriller: Cape nips Dover in 10 — down to last strike, Vikings rally for 6-5 win

Dover’s Nathan Turner is congratulated after he scored a run on a Cape walk at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

WILMINGTON — As the sun set with the Wilmington skyline in the background, Dover High and Cape Henlopen High were close to entering the fourth hour in their battle to make the state championship.

Finally in the 10th inning, the Senators forged ahead. But true to form of this game, the Vikings had one more rally in them.

Dover’s Alec Rodriguez is congratulated after scoring Dover’s first run against Cape at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington.

Jake Gelof’s two-out walkoff single lifted fourth-seeded Cape Henlopen to a 6-5 victory over the Senators on Friday night. Cape will play the winner of Friday’s late game between Caravel and St. Mark’s in the championship game at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Frawley Stadium.

Dover had taken the lead 5-4 on a two-out single by Nathan Turner in the top half of the 10th. The game went to extra innings when the Senators were down to their final strike in the seventh before Alec Rodriguez knocked a base-hit to plate the tying run.

Cape was also down to its final strike in the last inning before Timmy Vitella tied it with a base-hit.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking but I knew my team had my back and believed in me,” Vitella said. “We’ve all put in so much work in the offseason. It just felt good to come up big for the team.”

The game lasted three hours and 57 minutes.

Mason Fluharty started the 10th inning rally with a one-out walk. He advanced to second on a groundout to bring up Vitella, Cape Henlopen’s ninth hitter.

Dover’s Andrew Carney slides safely into home as Cape’s Zachary Savage was late on the tag at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington.

Vitella was able to slap a grounder which just grazed the glove of Dover’s diving third baseman and deflected into left field.

“We thought we had them,” said Dover coach Dave Gordon. “We had a kid out on his front foot and he was able roll it over. Just out of our reach.”

Vitella moved to second on a passed ball and Dover elected to walk Zack Gelof, the state’s Player of the Year.

Dover’s Dominic Velazquez pitches against Cape at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington.

It set the stage for his younger brother Jake Gelof, who already had three hits on the day including a double. Gelof pulled two liners foul before blasting another over the centerfielder’s head and was mobbed by his teammates at first base.

“We got huge plays when we needed them,” said Cape Henlopen coach Ben Evick. “That’s a team win.”

“Good Lord what a run Dover had,” Evick added. “I give Dave a ton of credit. What a team he’s put together. They didn’t quit and showed heart from the first pitch to the last.”

One of those huge plays came in the top of the ninth.

Dover’s Noah Lanouette hit a slow grounder into the hole between first and second and into right field. Cape’s Zach Dale charged the ball and fired a strike to home to throw out the potential go-ahead run to end the inning.

Another came in the bottom of the fifth when Cape had the bases loaded and two outs. Fluharty pulled a double down the line in left to clear the bases and give Cape Henlopen a 4-3 lead.

Cape pitched Zack Gelof, Fluharty, Austin Elliott and Jake Gelof in the 10-inning affair. Together they combined to leave the bases loaded four times and stranded 19 runners — seven of those on third base.

Cape’s Mason Fluharty pitches against Dover at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington.

Elliott came on in the sixth to strikeout back-to-back hitters with a bases loaded jam. He pitched into the 10th until Jake Gelof came on to record the final out after Turner’s base-hit.

Dover sent the game to extras when Hiram Davis ripped a single to lead off the top of the seventh. Turner bunted him to second before a strikeout but Davis was able to steal third.

Dom Velazquez was down to his final strike but was able to foul off a pitch and work a walk. Rodriguez, a freshman, then tied the game with his single.

“I know this was a young group and I’m so proud of them,” Gordon said. “They just fought. We were down to our last out and Alec laces a single off a kid going to North Carolina.

“We faced a kid going to Virginia, a kid going to Liberty and a kid going to North Carolina and we took them 10 innings,” Gordon added. “They kicked our butt during the regular season and I thought we came back and gave them everything they could handle, maybe more. I wish them the best of luck, I’ll be cheering for them.”

The Senators went from on the bubble of the tournament to the semifinals in two weeks.

They needed to win at Delaware Military on May 21 to make sure they got in. The victory gave Dover a 17 seed which it rode all the way to the semifinals, including upsets of top-seeded William Penn and No. 8 Salesianum.

“I’m just so proud,” Gordon said. “We came from a 17 seed and our playoff run started last Monday at Delaware Military where we had to win to get in. We’ve been going after it everyday since and made a hell of a run.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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