Vikings fall to powerful Appo 10-2 in state baseball final

WILMINGTON — The ‘C’ on their jerseys didn’t stand for Cinderella this past week.

It just felt like it.

But on Saturday afternoon the Cape Henlopen High baseball team finally dug itself a hole it couldn’t climb out of.

Eighth-seeded Appoquinimink scored 10 runs in the first three innings and held off No. 10 Cape, 10-2, in the DIAA baseball state championship game at Frawley Stadium.

It was the first state title of any kind for Appo, the Middletown-area school that had its first graduating class in 2011.

When the final out was recorded on a fly ball to right field, the Jaguars came storming out of their dugout before piling on top of each other behind the pitcher’s mound.

It was a tough moment to watch for the Vikings, who were making the program’s first appearance in the state finals. Then again, nobody expected them to get here just a few months ago.

“If we could make the tournament at that point (two months ago), if we could have a winning season. … just getting here was great,” said senior Kai Vitella. “But it would have been really awesome to go farther, of course. But that’s the way it is.”

“That’s the best team that we’ve seen all year,” said Cape coach Ben Evick, whose team lost to Appo, 13-0, on April 11. “I felt that way when we played them the first time. I mean we’ve been hot so I knew that we had a chance. And you look at the scoreboard, we have eight hits, they have nine hits. But they get 10 runs.

“I mean they ran on us, they were aggressive. We had some passed balls — which hasn’t happened of late. We had made a couple errors here or there that were costly and they dropped in a couple hits when they needed them. … You’ve got to give them all the credit in the world.”

The Vikings (14-8), who had won 10 of their last 11 games, actually got off to a good start. Drew Mulcahy opened the game with a double before Zach Gelof followed with an RBI single to give Cape a 1-0 lead.

But the Jaguars (17-5) answered right back with four runs in the bottom of the first to take control. A five-run inning in the third, though, really broke things open.

Appo sent 10 batters to the plate in the outburst to stretch its lead to 10-1. The Jaguars had only three singles in the frame — one of which was a popup lost in the sun — but also took advantage of three walks and a wild pitch on a third strike.

Four runners scored on wild pitches in the inning.

“We always say, if our first guy gets on, we’re winning the game,” said senior first baseman David Kwan. “I guess that didn’t happen today. We were feeling good when we put up a run in the first inning.

“I don’t know if we were totally focused. We weren’t in the moment. It’s just hard, never being here before. It’s a big stage. We just couldn’t put it together.”

Cape did finish with eight hits, including two each from Gelof and Jason Wiberg. The Vikings only other run, however, came when David Kennedy reached base on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the fourth.

Cape stranded eight runners on base in the contest.

Sophomore pitcher Ryan Steckline earned the win for Appo after surrendering seven hits in six innings. Joseph Otto, who doubled, and catcher Thomas Rybicki had two hits apiece for the Jaguars.

The Vikings never really gave up on making a comeback. It just never materialized.

“Down 5-1, we felt like we’re going to make a comeback,” said Vitella. “This is what we do. We had guys on base. But it seemed like every time they got a guy on, he was to third in like two pitches and then they were scoring. We couldn’t put together a couple runs and get that momentum going.

“We fought the whole time and I’m really proud of the whole team. We’ve got a lot of good leadership. It’s been a great run.”

Extra innings

Cape’s Hunter Engel, who broke his leg diving into first base in Thursday’s semifinals, watched Saturday’s game from the dugout in a wheelchair. … This was the first baseball state finals between two public schools since 1990 when Newark beat Seaford in the title game. … The last Henlopen Conference team to win the baseball state title is still Seaford in 1993. … Appo lost in the 2011 state finals.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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