Senators taste semifinal frustration again, fall to St. Mark’s 5-3

WILMINGTON — Dover High came to Frawley Stadium on Saturday night desperately wanting to change recent history.

St. Mark’s, on the other, would be just fine if things kept going the way they usually do.

In the end, it was the top-seeded Spartans who walked away happy, rallying for a 5-3 victory over the No. 4 Senators in the DIAA baseball state semifinals at Frawley Stadium on Saturday night.

St. Mark’s (19-2) will face third-seeded Caravel in Tuesday night’s state championship game. The Buccaneers downed Middletown, 11-1, in five innings in Saturday’s first semifinal.

The title game will be played at 7 p.m. at Frawley Stadium. It’s the third time in the last four years that St. Mark’s and Caravel will meet in the finals.

While Dover (18-3) was trying to reach the state finals for only the third time and for the first time since 1973, St. Mark’s will be playing in its 20th state championship game since 1985.

The Senators are now 0-4 in the state semifinals over the last four years. It was another tearful ending for Dover’s players, who hugged each other and wiped back the tears when it was over.

“I believe in the kids,” said Dover coach Dave Gordon. “These kids show up every single day. I think my whole senior class is going to college — half of them are going to play an NCAA sport. It’s not surprising that we made it back after losing all those seniors.

“When you get a group of kids that believe in something and you create a culture, great things can happen. We went 18-3 this year. That’s a lot of victories. I’m proud of them, I really am.”

“I did what I could do,” said senior pitcher Garrett Lawson. “I pitched my heart out. I gave everything. It’s my last game I’m ever going to play wearing ‘Dover.’”

Dover took a 3-0 lead in the third only to have St. Mark’s whittle away at that advantage.

The Spartans finally wnet ahead 4-3 on a controversial run in the bottom of the fifth. St. Mark’s loaded the bases with two outs on a single and two walks, the last of which was intentional.

Lawson then had an 0-2 count on Chris Ludman when an inside pitch appeared to hit the Spartans’ batter, who shook his hand as he ran down to first. The umpire agreed that the ball hit him, bringing in the go-ahead run.

Gordon argued the call and the home plate umpire consulted with the other umpire before the call stood.

Dover contended that, if the ball had hit the batter on his finger, he should have been in more pain. Lawson said he broke a batter’s hand on a similar play in summer ball last year.

“It’s unfortunate that a call like that basically decides the game,” said Gordon. “I didn’t think it hit him at all. I’m pretty sure if he got hit by a Garrett Lawson fastball, you wouldn’t be able to run down to first.”

Lawson allowed five hits and four runs while striking out eight in five innings. The Spartans taked on an insurance run in the sixth off freshman reliever Hiram Davis.

“It was a bulldog effort,” Gordon said about Lawson. “It was the third game he pitched this week. I know he was getting tired there. He told me he wanted to battle one more. I can’t sit that kid down when he says he wants the ball.

“I love that kid to death. He’s done everything I’ve ever asked of him. I think he’s got one heck of a future.”

In a contest where neither team had a hit for the first two innings, Dover got something going in the top of the third.

Consecutive singles by Avery Tunnell, Jarvis Worthy and Jordan Hutchins loaded the bases for Lawson. The left-hander launched a ball the opposite way, over the left-fielder’s head, for a three-run double that staked the Senators to a 3-0 lead.

The Spartans got a run back in the bottom of the third on a walk, a stolen base and a balk before Tyler Kaczmarczyk’s RBI single — St. Mark’s first hit of the game — made it 3-1.

St. Mark’s then tied the contest at 3-3 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Spartans strung together three hits in the outburst, including a one-out triple from catcher Thomas Gibb.

Dover had a chance to score in the top of the fifth when it put runners on first and second with one out. But St. Mark’s turned its second double play of the night to get out of the jam.

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