Solid Smyrna baseball team sets high goals

Last season, Ryan Seymour was named to the All-State first team, the first time a Smyrna player accomplished that feat since 2002. (Delaware State News file photo)

Last season, Ryan Seymour was named to the All-State first team, the first time a Smyrna player accomplished that feat since 2002. (Delaware State News file photo)

SMYRNA — Mike Henderson has been the head baseball coach at Smyrna High for the past two seasons.

Both of those seasons ended with a trip to the state tournament and one was highlighted by a berth in the state quarterfinals.

Now as he enters his third season, Henderson is cautiously optimistic, but thinks this could be the Eagles’ best season yet.

“It’s definitely the most talented team I’ve had,” Henderson said. “Nothing against the other teams, but we have six starters returning, two All-State players, so there’s a lot of experience and we expect some young kids to step up too. I just like the mix.

“I think they’re up for the challenge,” he added. “I think we’ve competed at the next level and I think we can take it up a notch. It’s baseball, so you never know what can happen, but I feel as good as I could feel right now.”

Smyrna, which finished last season at 12-6 and fell in the first round of the state tournament to Caravel, opens its season by hosting Delmar on Tuesday at 4:15 p.m.

The Eagles’ group of six returning starters is led by seniors Ryan Seymour and Jared Gillis. Both are committed to

Jared Gillis was honored on second team All-State last year. (Delaware State News file photo)

Jared Gillis was honored on second team All-State last year. (Delaware State News file photo)

play baseball next year for Delaware State University.

Last season, Seymour was named to the All-State first team, the first time a Smyrna player accomplished that feat since 2002. Gillis was honored on the second team.

Seymour played second base last year and Gillis was at third but that could change at times this season. Henderson said given the team’s depth, both players will move around the diamond depending on who is pitching.

Seymour will see some time at third with Gillis playing the outfield occasionally. Both players have been on varsity since they were freshmen.

“Jared is my best friend,” Seymour said. “He’s been with me since when we were 12-years-old playing Major League. Nobody pushes me more than him. I know he’ll bring out the best in me and I hope to bring out the best in him. It’s cool being able to play on the same team, in the same infield, with your best friend.”

And while Seymour and Gillis had the best numbers offensively last year, the Eagles are deeper than just the two stars.

Smyrna has a strong crop of juniors returning to the starting lineup. Brandt Penuel will be the starting catcher and is fully healthy after battling a back injury last season.

Nolan Henderson, Mike Henderson’s son and an All-State quarterback in football, will patrol centerfield for the second straight season. Shawn Dulin also started in the infield last year at shortstop as a sophomore and will be back.

Smyrna might be even deeper pitching-wise.

Sophomore Jeremy Carrow and senior John Barkley give the Eagles a tough one-two combination. Carrow became Smyrna’s top pitcher late last year as a freshman and earned the start in its state tournament game.

Barkley was consistent all year and spent part of last summer pitching for the Kent County all-stars, helping them reach the Big League World Series in South Carolina.

Dulin and Nolan Henderson will also be part of the Eagles pitching staff. Mike Henderson also noted Smyrna has two young lefties who will pitch — sophomore Max Lattomus and freshman Garrett Casey.

“We have a lot of depth at each position and a lot of young guys coming up that I think can play some key roles,” Seymour said. “All of our pitchers honestly look phenomenal so far. We’re swinging the bats well, too. I think we’ll have a pretty successful year. I think we can exceed a lot of people’s expectations this year.”

Smyrna will be tested plenty of times during the regular season.

The Eagles’ nonconference schedule includes defending state champion Appoquinimink, perennial powers St. Mark’s and Caravel along with upstate trips to Middletown and Newark. Then there’s the always-challenging slate of Henlopen Conference Northern Division games.

But Smyrna is welcoming that competition in the hopes of preparing for the state tournament.

“We’ve got a lot of depth and talent at each position,” Nolan Henderson said. “We’re competing and getting better as a group. There’s a great group of talent with a lot of hard work and we have to take that next step of being one of the top teams.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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