St. Mark’s couldn’t wait to win the championship game of the DIAA Baseball State Tournament on Wednesday night at Frawley Stadium.
The Spartans were so eager to finish that they started getting two outs at a time instead of one.
St. Mark’s scratched out a run in each of the first three innings, then turned four double plays over the last four innings to hold off Caravel 3-1 for the school’s eighth state title in 11 years and 13th overall.
“I think they turned, what, eight double plays?” Caravel coach Paul Niggebrugge said of the Spartans. “It seemed like eight.”
St. Mark’s, the defending state champion, was struggling along at 9-7 two weeks ago. The Spartans had to win their last two regular-season games just to slip into the 16-team tournament as 13th seed. But once the postseason began, that old St. Mark’s magic reappeared.
“A couple of weeks ago, people thought we weren’t going to make the tournament,” Spartans coach Matt Smith said. “They were talking about St. Mark’s not being able to advance.
“But it’s about these guys. These guys came to practice every day, and they believed in themselves. I’m so proud of them.”
Calvin Scott singled, stole second and came around to score on a couple of groundouts to put the Spartans (15-7) up 1-0 in the first. The second-seeded Buccaneers (17-5) answered in their half of the first, as Austin Niggebrugge singled, stole second, moved to third on a balk and scored on David Summerfield’s groundout.
Gilbert Peralta led off the St. Mark’s second with a triple and scored on a balk. Then Billy Phillips singled in the third, moved to third on Dominic DiSabatino’s single and came home on an error for a 3-1 Spartans lead.
Then the double plays began. St. Mark’s right-hander Matt Frost kept coaxing Caravel into hitting ground balls to DiSabatino at short or Brad Nowell at second. The Spartans ended the Buccaneers’ fourth and fifth innings with 6-4-3 double plays, then finished the sixth with a 4-6-3.
“Matt Frost just kept the ball low in the zone and just kept rolling me the baseball,” DiSabatino said. “I just kept trying to get a glove on it, flip it to Brad Nowell and just get the out at first base.”
“We have the best middle infielders in the state of Delaware,” Frost said.
But Caravel was far from done, as Summerfield and Ryan Zwier each singled to start the seventh.
“I think my [velocity] just started slowing down, and then they got those hits and I just knew we needed to bring in somebody who was fresh,” Frost said.
Smith brought in Phillips, and the left-hander immediately coaxed another 4-6-3 double play. Summerfield moved to third, but the Buccaneers’ Hunter Ellis grounded to first for the final out of the season.
“That’s what I live for,” Phillips said. “The whole game, coach was telling me I was coming in toward the end. That’s what I was waiting for. … I was ready to come in.”
It was a tough loss for Caravel, which spent much of the season as the state’s top-ranked team.
“I thought we hit the ball well,” Niggebrugge said. “We just hit them at them, and they made the plays. Take away the first couple of innings, and I thought it was a really good ballgame.
“We had a fantastic season,” the coach added. “We played arguably the toughest schedule in the state, and we weathered the storm. I’m very, very pleased with what we accomplished.”