Smyrna baseball team holds on 3-2 to end skid vs. rival Dover

DOVER — It wasn’t a performance either team would put in a time capsule.

And the cold, blustery conditions didn’t make it a fun afternoon for either Smyrna High’s or Dover’s baseball players.

But the Eagles were certainly warmed by the fact that they’d finally beaten the rival Senators, 3-2, in an early-season Henlopen Conference showdown on Tuesday.

It was believed to be the first time Smyrna (3-0 in conference, 4-0 overall) have downed Dover (3-1, 5-1) in baseball in a decade.

“It feels great,” said Eagles senior pitcher John Barkley. “We always have a little rivalry with them. It feels good, senior year, to go out beating them.”

“I have a good squad,” said Smyrna coach Mike Henderson. “They’re going to play with the top teams. That’s not our season (but) it’s a good feeling to finally beat Dover.”

In a contest that featured only one RBI hit, the Eagles gradually built a 3-0 lead. The Senators, though, took advantage of three Smyrna errors and two walks to score twice in the bottom of the sixth inning.

But Barkley got a strikeout to end the threat and strand three Dover runners on base. He then retired the Senators in order in the seventh to finally end the contest, which lasted two hours and 50 minutes.

“The baseball gods are going to make sure there’s errors,” said Barkley. “But we recovered from it and got through the game.

“It’s real hard to get a good grip on the ball. I don’t like pitching in the cold.”

Smyrna got the game’s first run in the third when Shawn Dulin walked and eventually scored on a double steal. Dover misplayed the throw to second base, allowing Dulin to come home.

The Senators looked like they had tied the game in the fourth, however.

Jordan Hutchins, who doubled down the third base line, later ended up on third with the bases loaded and two outs. On a pitch that was low and far outside, the senior got a good break as he tried to steal home.

Eagles catcher Brandt Penuel lunged back across the plate just as Hutchins slid in. Hutchins appeared to reach home before the tag but the umpire called him out.

“We thought Jordan was definitely in there,” said Dover coach Dave Gordon. “That’s something we practice. You’ve got to live with it. They’re not going to change it.”

“I couldn’t tell,” said Henderson. “Our catcher said it was close. … It was a tough play. There was a lot of plays that could have gone either way.”

Smyrna padded its lead with a pair of runs in the sixth. Dulin singled home Zach Zlock, who opened the inning with a hit.

Nolan Henderson, who walked, then scored on a dropped pickoff attempt at first base.

Both teams left their share of runners on base.

Penuel led off the second with a triple to right center. But Dover starting pitcher Garrett Lawson struck out the side, including back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded.

Lawson allowed only one hit and struck out six but walked five in three innings. Hutchins had four strikeouts and four walks in four innings of relief.

For Smyrna, winning pitcher Jeremy Carrow surrendered only one hit, while striking out eight and walking two in five innings. Barkley had two strikeouts and two walks in the last two innings.

The game featured six errors and eight hits on a day when the temperature was in the low 40s.

“It’s cold out here,” said Gordon. “I thought both teams battled. It’s two pretty good baseball teams. I told the guys, maybe we’ll get lucky and see them again down the road.”

“They kept battling back,” said Henderson. “We couldn’t put them away. You have to give them credit.

“It could have went either way. We didn’t make plays when we should have, they didn’t make plays. We didn’t get calls, they didn’t get calls. We’re just happy to walk out of here with a win.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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