Velazquez, Senators advance in baseball tournament with 5-2 win over St. Mark’s

Dover’s Dominic Velazquez pitches against St. Mark’s. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — St. Mark’s had just sliced Dover High’s lead in half with a two-run double.

And the Spartans still had a runner on second base in the sixth inning.

That was all the motivation that Dom Velazquez needed.

The Senators’ right hander reached back and fired three pitches past St. Mark’s next batter — each one a little faster than the next. The last one topped out at 89 mph.

The Spartans’ threat over, Velazquez breezed through the final inning as No. 4 Dover claimed its 5-2 victory over No. 13 St. Mark’s in the second round of the DIAA baseball state tournament on Saturday afternoon.

“The kid’s amazing,” shortstop Hiram Davis said about Velazquez. “Even when we were like 10 or 11 years old, he did the same thing. When people get on (base), it just fuels him up even more.”

Velazquez showed why the Senators believe in him by tossing a complete-game five-hitter with five strikeouts and only one walk as Henlopen Conference champion Dover (16-3) earned another showdown with Cape Henlopen.

Dover’s Dominic Velazquez connects for a double in the first inning against St. Mark’s.

The two teams will meet for the fourth time in the last two seasons when the Senators host the No. 12 Vikings (15-5) in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Cape out-lasted Dover in a memorable 6-5, 10-inning victory in last year’s semis before winning the state title. The Senators then downed the Vikings, 4-1, on May 2.

On Saturday, Dover earned another shot at Cape after using a three-run fifth inning to open up a 4-0 lead on St. Mark’s (13-7).

Andrew Carney lined an RBI single, Keon Malone drove in a run on a sacrifice fly before Davis capped off the inning with an RBI double down the third-base line.

A 1997 Dover grad and now the Senators’ ninth-year head coach, Dave Gordon said it was the first time he can remember beating the 14-time state champion Spartans in baseball. He did say that Dover did beat St. Mark’s in 2000, when he was in college.

Senators shortstop Hiram Davis throws to first base on a double play attempt against St. Mark’s.

“You know they’re going to come ready to play,” said Gordon. “They’ve got four or five kids going to college. You work all year to get a bye and then you get St. Mark’s. You’re like, ‘Oh man, maybe we should have lost a couple extra games.’

“But everybody’s going to be good all the way out from now. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. But we’re pretty good, too, so we’ll see what happens on the field.”

“I knew it’d be a tough game,” said outfielder Nathan Turner. “Even though they were a lower seed, we still knew they were going to come in and give us a good game — and they did. We just fought hard. We had a lot of energy today.”

After St. Mark’s cut Dover’s lead to 4-2 with its two runs in the top of the sixth, the Senators got an insurance run back in the bottom of the inning. Two walks and a fielding error brought home pinch-runner Jeremy Steele.

But Velazquez didn’t need the extra run as he set the Spartans down in order in the seventh. Velazquez stranded five St. Mark’s runners on base in the first three innings but also retired the Spartans in order in three of the last four frames.

“I thought his last inning was his best inning, I really did,” said Gordon. “That’s a tough lineup. There’s no breaks. You’ve got to pitch every pitch.”

Dover third baseman Samuel Courtney catches an infield popup against St. Mark’s.

“I felt good,” said Velazquez, who also had two hits, including a double. “I was getting ahead early, just staying ahead and getting quick outs. They’re a good team so we came in knowing that they were going to put the ball in play. I had faith in my defense.”

This is familiar territory for the Senators. It’s the sixth time in the last seven years that they’ve reached at least the state quarterfinals.

Dover’s players know that facing Cape again will be an even bigger challenge.

“Monday we have to have the best practice,” said Velazquez, “and just focus on them one pitch at a time.”

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