Another season of Delaware high school baseball has come down to Caravel and St. Mark’s.
By this point, no one can be surprised.
The two teams have combined to win 11 of the last 13 state championships. St. Mark’s has collected 13 titles and played in 20 finals since 1985. Caravel has taken home four trophies and played in seven finals since 1998.
Tuesday’s 7 p.m. championship game at Frawley Stadium will mark the third time in four years that the Buccaneers and Spartans have played for all the marbles. Caravel won in 2014, and St. Mark’s won in 2013. Last year’s Appoquinimink victory over Cape Henlopen interrupted the streak.
In a single-elimination tournament where a dominant pitcher, critical error or bloop hit can end your season in any round, it is remarkable to see two programs consistently rise to the top.
“We play a tough schedule, and we have a lot of tough games,” St. Mark’s coach Matt Smith said. “Every year is a new team. We work hard in the offseason, in the weight room and things like that, and hopefully that stuff pays in the long run.”
Part of that tough schedule was a 4-3 victory over Caravel on April 14, when the Spartans had to sweat out a Buccaneers rally in the top of the seventh. It was just another learning experience for Caravel, which also tackles a tough string of opponents.
“I don’t know how we do that,” Buccaneers coach Paul Niggebrugge said, when asked for the secret to postseason success. “All I know is, it starts from Day One. Everything that we do is based on being here and doing well.”
A full season of unpredictable results made the DIAA Softball Tournament appear to be wide open, and that was exactly how it played out during Saturday’s first round.
Lower-seeded teams won four of the eight games. The Nos. 3, 4 and 5 seeds were eliminated, leaving No. 12 Charter of Wilmington with an unexpected home game against No. 13 Red Lion Christian in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
The other quarterfinal games – all scheduled to start at 4 p.m. – have No. 1 Caravel hosting No. 9 Caesar Rodney, No. 2 Sussex Tech hosting No. 7 Appoquinimink and No. 6 Concord hosting No. 14 Lake Forest.
A lack of dominant pitching is the reason behind the volatility.
All of the previous six state champions allowed less than two runs per game during the regular season. Three of them allowed an average of one run or less, winning behind stellar pitchers who often struck out 15 or more batters per game.
No team has that unhittable force this season, so everyone is scoring more runs. Sussex Central had the stingiest regular-season defense at 1.6 runs per game, but the third-seeded Golden Knights lost 7-5 to Lake Forest in the first round.
The best remaining defense is Caravel at 2.2 runs per game, followed by Appoquinimink (2.6) and Sussex Tech (2.8). But all of those teams have given up four runs or more at least five times this season, so anything can happen over the final three rounds. The semifinals will be Thursday and the championship game will be Saturday, all at sites and times to be determined.
Jeremiah Bluntson of Howard and Laura Wagner of Caesar Rodney have won the fourth annual Delaware Association of Athletic Directors scholarships.
Bluntson earned six varsity letters in football and wrestling and is ranked first in his class. He plans to attend the University of Delaware.
Wagner earned seven varsity letters in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track and is ranked 17th in her class. She plans to attend Swarthmore College.
Both Bluntson and Wagner earned $500, and are eligible to earn an additional $1,500 at the regional level and $2,500 at the national level.
Rounding it up
— Dover shortstop-pitcher Jordan Hutchins has been named Gatorade Delaware Baseball Player of the Year. The senior hit .525, stole 14 bases and went 7-0 with a 0.80 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 44 innings as the Senators went 16-2 during the regular season and reached the state semifinals.
— Indian River’s Brooke Beam has been named the Gatorade Delaware Girls Soccer Player of the Year. The University of Richmond signee scored 27 goals and dished out 18 assists as the Indians went 14-1 during the regular season. Indian River will meet Delaware Military Academy in the semifinals of the DIAA Division II tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Smyrna.
— The Delcastle girls soccer team produced an 8-5-2 record this spring, the first winning season since the program started in 1996.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ