Velazquez, Dover grab 5-4 baseball win over rival Caesar Rodney

Dover’s Alec Rodriguez rounds third base on his way to score the Senators’ first run against CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — The ball went screaming off of Brandon Hatch’s bat, right in the direction of Dom Velazquez’ head.

Luckily for Velazquez, his reflexes were a little faster than the line drive.

Ducking his head to the side, the Dover High pitched snared the ball and then tossed it to first base for a game-ending double play.

The bang-bang play brought a sudden end to the Senators’ 5-4 victory over Caesar Rodney in the two Henlopen Conference rivals’ annual baseball showdown on a chilly Thursday afternoon.

“That ball was smoked,” Dover coach Dave Gordon said about the game-ending play. “The Hatch kid put a good swing on it but Dom Velazquez is a good player and he made a great play.”

Caesar Rodney’s Ryan Rigby pitches against Dover.

“It was just reaction, really,” said Velazquez.

It was the third straight year and the sixth time in the last 10 meetings that the game has been decided by a single run. And that final play was just a last example of how the contest could have gone either way.

The game featured three lead changes, with the Senators (6-1 in conference, 6-1 overall) going ahead for good on Michael Carrington’s two-run double in the fourth inning. The senior ripped a ball that was just fair down the third-base line to put Dover up, 5-4.

“Jeff (Gravatt) does a great job,” Gordon said about CR’s coach. “They come ready to play. That game could have gone either way.

“We made some mistakes and we battled. I love how my guys just kept their heads down, just dug deep and got it done.”

“There’s a lot of things that could have gone either way,” Gravatt agreed. “That’s your Dover-CR rivalry game right there. I thought our kids played hard and played well the whole game.”

Dover’s Andrew Carney pitches against CR.

Trailing 2-0, the Riders (3-3 in conference, 3-4 overall) took the lead on a four-run outburst in the top of the fourth. The first two runs came home on a throwing error on a pick-off attempt with the bases loaded.

Senior Avon Jones then followed by belting a two-run homerun over the left-field fence to give CR its 4-2 advantage.

But Dover answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead right back.

Velazquez finished with three of the Senators’ 10 hits, including a double, with two RBI. The junior also earned a save in relief of winning pitcher Andrew Carney after throwing three shutout innings to close the game.

The Senators have now won four of the last five meetings in the series after avenging a 5-4 loss to the Riders a year ago.

Dover’s Gabriel Skay dives back to first base against CR.

“We were down, we just kept fighting,” said Velazquez. “We’re not going to give up. It’s just a matter of when the big play’s going to be.”

Velazquez got a couple big plays from catcher Christopher Dabney. The senior twice threw out CR runners trying to steal second.

The second of those plays came in the top of the seventh after Jones led off the inning by reaching first on an error.

“That’s my catcher, I’ve got faith in him always,” said Velazquez. “No runners (on base) is way easier than a runner on second.”

Dabney also reached base three times while Alec Rodriguez went 2-for-4 and scored twice.

Mason Brewer reached base three times for CR.

While the one-run margin kept things interesting on Thursday, Gordon would prefer the Senators put some more runs up on the board. He knows they still ave plenty of improving to do.

“I still feel, one through nine, we’re not there yet,” he said. “But I think, once we click, we’re going to be pretty tough.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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