Vikings set to defend baseball state title

Cape Henlopen left-hander Mason Fluharty. Delaware State News file photo

LEWES — Last season’s historic state championship run had been a few years in the making for the Cape Henlopen High baseball program.

After falling 10-2 to Appoquinimink High in the 2015 DIAA title game, the Vikings made consecutive quarterfinal appearances in 2016 and 2017.

The Vikings finally got over the hump and captured the school’s first-ever baseball title with a 5-3 win over Caravel Academy at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington last June 4.

“It was crazy. All of it happened so fast, and I wish I could go back in time and do it all again,” said senior Mason Fluharty of last year’s win. “It was probably the best experience and the most fun day of my life.”

“We had that goal for a long, long time,” said senior Tim Vitella. “We all played together since we were really young, and it was just one of the craziest things to ever happen. The first time in our high school’s history, and it was just a moment that’s never going to be forgotten.”

After four consecutive state tournament appearances, two championship appearances and one title, the Cape boys expect to be in the tournament and expect to win games every year.

“Once you get that far into the tournament, and you get a feel for what that pressure’s like, the confidence was there and I think the confidence is still there,” said Cape coach Ben Evick, who is entering his 15th season at the helm. “They expect to win games and they work hard in order to win those games.”

Typically, there tends to be a target on the back of the defending champions entering a new season, but according to Evick the target has already been there.

The program has been getting everyone’s best over the last couple of seasons.

“I can’t remember a game in the last four years where we were not seeing everyone’s No. 1 pitcher, unless rain caused a change in the schedule,” said Evick. “So, I feel like we’ve had that target anyway. These guys are used to that, and I don’t think it’s going to really have any impact on them. They’re going to come play their game regardless.”

“I think we’re just going to get everyone’s No. 1 again, just like usual,” Fluharty said. “We still have a target on our back and we’re just going to have to go out there and fight as hard as we can.”

Cape lost seven seniors from last year’s title team, with five of those kids now playing Division I baseball and the other two playing Division III baseball at the next level.

With another strong group of seven seniors this season, Evick isn’t worried about leadership and depth.

“Coming off that state championship, our kids have been phenomenal all year long,” he said. “Most of our returners played together all summer and then once school came back they’ve been in the weight room three days a week and on the field every nice day there was.

“So, they’ve really been pushing that bar even higher and bringing the younger guys along who have been pulled up to varsity this year and sort of set that expectation for them.”

Joining Fluharty and Vitella in this year’s senior class is Parker Brown, Logan Dominick, Grant Evans, Ryan Gibbons and Jackson Ostroski.

“Our seniors have been phenomenal leaders, they literally started in September when we went back to school with the weight room and trying to get stronger,” said Evick. “They’ve done a really nice job, all the seniors.”

“Us seniors, we’re going to have to get the young guys involved more,” said Fluharty. “It’s definitely going to be a little different than last year, but as long as we have the young guys we’ll be good.”

For Vitella, he’s embracing the added responsibility of being one of the team’s seniors.

“It’s a cool feeling,” he said. “Last year we definitely relied on some of the older guys, now as one of the older guys it feels pretty cool to have guys looking up to you.”

Pitching has been the strength for Cape the last few seasons, and this year is no exception. Evick claims he has a good eight or nine guys who could contribute on the mound this spring.

“I’m pretty confident with our pitching,” said Evick. “As we mapped it out, we have eight or nine guys who can throw innings so we’re pretty excited about it.

“We have a couple really good guys at the top end who are going to throw us some quality innings in some big games, so it’s exciting,” he continued. “They’ve got the understanding of how to approach the game and their mound presence is really good, so I’m pretty excited.”

Fluharty, who is set to play Division I baseball at Liberty University next year, leads the way for the Vikings’ deep pitching staff.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who can locate real well,” said Fluharty. “Not like guys last year who had power, but we’ve got some guys who can really locate and get us some outs. We should be good.”

Joining Fluharty as Cape’s go-to guys on the mound are Brown and juniors Luke Johnson and Sean Clendaniel.

Johnson and Clendaniel lead a strong junior class comprised of Robert Baxley, Mason Carrow, Levi Clifton and Ed Joyce.

Sophomores Tyler Husbands, Matthew Newcomb and Hunter Rauch round out the roster of 17, which doesn’t include any freshmen.

“This year I think we’re a pretty well-balanced team,” said Evick.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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