St. Mark’s and Caravel began the season ranked first and second by The News Journal, and the teams will meet in the championship game of the DIAA Baseball State Tournament at 7 tonight at Frawley Stadium.
But the Spartans and Buccaneers took wildly different paths to this point. Caravel was one of the state’s top teams all season, winning its first 11 games, then losing four of five in one stretch before finishing a solid 14-4 regular season. St. Mark’s lost two of its first three – including a 4-3 setback at Caravel on April 3 – then was 6-5 just past the midway point. The Spartans had to win their final two regular-season games to finish 11-7 and slip into the 16-team tournament as the No. 13 seed.
But St. Mark’s is always at its best in the postseason, having won seven of the last 10 state titles. So nobody has been shocked to see the Spartans buzz through Archmere, Appoquinimink and top-seeded St. Elizabeth on their way to the final.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Caravel coach Paul Niggebrugge said of the Spartans. “They find a way to really get hot when it means the most. That’s the sign of a champion.”
One or both of these teams has played in the championship game in 11 of the past 12 seasons, and they have combined to win nine of those titles. They met each other in the 2007 final, with St. Mark’s winning 4-2.
“Two good programs and we’re excited we’re here,” Spartans coach Matt Smith said. “But we’re not content.”
Matt Frost (7-2) will start on the mound tonight for St. Mark’s, with ace left-hander Billy Phillips in right field. But Phillips will be eligible to pitch after only going six innings in Saturday’s semifinal win over St. E.
“Our coaches say we always get hot in the playoffs,” Phillips said. “We’ve been saying ‘survive and advance’ the whole time, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We hadn’t been hitting at all and just finally, we’re all hitting.”
Niggebrugge is undecided on Caravel’s starter, but don’t be surprised to see the Buccaneers mix and match on the mound. Caravel used five pitchers in both its first-round win over Caesar Rodney and quarterfinal victory over Sussex Central, then used three hurlers in the semifinal win over Dover.
“That has been our trend,” Niggebrugge said. “We’ve had several guys step up, and if you followed us, we’ve used several pitchers. We’ll take a look at matchups, see who matches up well and who is hot.”
Rounding it up
* Tatnall’s Reagan Anderson ran a personal best of 4:44.59 in finishing sixth in the girls Dream Mile at the Adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island in New York City on Saturday. Wesley Frazier of Raleigh, N.C., won in 4:39.17.
* Charter of Wilmington won the Blue Hen Conference golf tournament with a team score of 341 last Wednesday at Odessa National Golf Club. There was a four-way tie for medalist, as A.I. du Pont’s Mike Pak and Evan Lorenz, Hodgson’s John Brooks and Brandywine’s Mitch Bozenka each shot 81. Lorenz and St. Georges’ Matt Adams also witnessed a hole-in-one by Middletown’s Joey Licata, who aced the 164-yard 15th hole with a 7-iron.
* Mount Pleasant’s Lonnie Williams has signed to play football and run track at Carson-Newman (Tenn.) University.
* Brandywine’s Memuna Turay has signed to play women’s basketball at Goldey-Beacom College.
* Archmere has received a National Athletic Trainers’ Association First Team Safe Sports School Award. The award champions safety and recognizes secondary schools that provide safe environments for student-athletes. Athletic trainers Jim Malseed and Katy Ellis and team physicians Damian Andrisani and Steve Kushner – both Archmere grads – provide health care for the Auks.
* St. Mark’s junior varsity baseball team recently participated in a Special Olympics training program for the students at the John G. Leach School. The Spartans partnered with Leach students through a series of activities designed to increase mobility and dexterity.
* Charter of Wilmington boys lacrosse players Andy Kearns and Tom Walker finished their careers with a combined 280 points. Kearns had 85 goals and 57 assists, while Walker had 68 goals and 70 assists.