Milford High senior Phil Berry has been a part of Buccaneer baseball teams that have gone down fighting the losing battle against Henlopen Conference Northern Division rival Dover for three consecutive years.
So Berry, holding a three-run lead with Senators on second and third base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, wasn’t about to back down on the pitching rubber. This one meant a little bit more to him.
It took three straight strikes for Berry to finish the contest with a strikeout as Milford held on to defeat Dover 6-3 to grab a little bit of early season momentum on a warm and breezy Tuesday afternoon.
“That was for three years of getting beat,” Berry said of his final strikeout. “That was for all of the four seniors that’s on the team. It felt very good.
“They’re a great team and we haven’t been able to beat them in the four years I’ve been here,” he added. “So it was really nice to be able to beat them my senior year, especially since I was on the mound.”
Berry, a right-hander, scattered eight hits in going the distance. He finished with eight strikeouts and only three walks, getting the majority of his outs on ground balls with off-speed pitches.
“Phil pretty much took that one on his shoulders and said, ‘This is for the seniors,’ ” said Nick Brannan, the Buccaneers’ head coach. “This is the first time in four years that we’ve beaten Dover, and that’s a big win for us.
“It’s very important for our program. We hold Dover as a very respected, very, very solid opponent and beating them means a little bit more.”
Milford (4-2 overall, 2-0 North) was able to plate three runs in both the third and sixth innings off Dover starter Kyle Mace.
Russell Handley scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third as the Bucs took a 1-0 lead. Jason Parker then brought home Jan Parson with a sacrifice fly to center field before Jon Valdez’s RBI single to left scored Dylan Sammons.
Dover (2-2, 0-1) fought back for a run in the bottom of the third when Mace scored Dakota Graham with a sacrifice fly to center that cut the Senators’ deficit to 3-1.
However, Milford was able to add to its lead in the sixth after loading the bases with nobody out. Garrett Coverdale knocked in Parker with a single off the third baseman’s glove before the Bucs added a couple of insurance runs on a throwing error to extend their lead to 6-1.
The Senators added a run in the sixth on Colin Stein’s double to left and tacked on another in the seventh before Berry was finally able to shut them down.
“We’ll never give up. I’m not worried about that with this team,” Dover head coach Dave Gordon said. “We’ve got to hit the ball better and we were lackadaisical a little bit during the first four innings and they put up a good inning and they deserved to win.
“Phil Berry pitched his heart out. He was up in the zone later on and we thought we could get to him but he stepped it up like a senior should and he got the [win].
Brannan said that while just earning the victory was nice, he hopes there will be some added benefits that come from it also.
“What a great opportunity we were given [Tuesday] and luckily we were able to execute and we were able to take advantage of our spots and put a little bit of pressure on the opponent,” Brannan said. “Our boys played the way they were supposed to.
“It’s definitely a momentum builder, it’s a confidence builder. If we can play with teams like Dover, we can play with anybody,” he added.