GEORGETOWN — When right fielder Luke Oliphant dove to his left in the top half of the seventh inning, Sussex Tech’s baseball players and fans went silent.
But then the sophomore showed umpires he had corralled a tailing one-out line drive off Dover junior Jordan Hutchins’ bat, and a loud cheer erupted.
Oliphant’s play forced Senators senior Aaron Jenkins — who almost assuredly would have scored the tying run had the liner gotten by the right fielder — back to first base with two outs. One pitch later, Jenkins was caught trying to steal second by Sussex Tech catcher Collin Bergh and the Ravens sealed a 4-3 win.
It was Dover’s first loss of the season and the sixth straight victory for Sussex Tech (7-1 overall, 4-1 Henlopen).
“I’ve always prided myself on defense, and I knew it was a big play but I was just trying to do my job,” said Oliphant, who also doubled in a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning. “You never know what could happen in baseball, so I had to get up and get the ball back into my cutoff man. I didn’t get to think about it too much.”
Ravens freshman Brady Parks picked up the win in relief of starting pitcher Ryan Swingle.
Parks, who took over on the mound to start the third, pitched five scoreless innings and allowed just one hit – Jenkins’ one-out single in the seventh – along the way.
The southpaw also drove in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
Falling behind 1-2, Parks worked the count back full and then drilled a double down the right field line just out of the reach of diving Senators first baseman Kendall Small. The two-base hit plated Ravens junior Cole Collins, who had led the inning off with his own double.
“It’s pretty hard (to stay patient) in that situation, but you have to keep your head clear and get the hit,” Parks said of his game-winning at-bat. “He gave me a changeup inside and I just drove it down the line.
“(Dover) is a very sound team, but it was just my day,” Parks added about his effort on the mound. “I had my two-seamer working today and a couple curveballs here and there.”
Senior Dakota Graham gave the Senators (4-1, 4-1) a 1-0 advantage when he led the game off with a double and later scored on a fielder’s choice. Sussex Tech quickly tied the contest in its first at-bat when Bergh lined a home run over the left-center fence off Senators’ starter Garrett Lawson.
Graham helped Dover reclaim its lead in the top of the second when he singled Lawson home and the Senators moved ahead 3-1 later in the frame thanks to a Ravens’ error that allowed senior Aven Purnell to score.
Tech, however, plated two runs in the bottom of the frame on Oliphant’s double.
From there, Parks and Dover relief pitcher Austin Johnson, who came on in the middle of the third inning, mostly quieted the bats until Tech pushed the eventual game-winner across in the sixth.
“It was little nerve-racking trying to figure out who to go with (on the mound),” Ravens coach G.L. Jefferson said of allowing the freshman Parks to pitch in a pivotal conference game. “But never once did we have any doubt that he would come in and pitch well. His mindset on the mound is incredible.
“Coming into this ballgame we knew a lot of people were doubting us despite our record,” Jefferson continued. “We wanted to come out and make a statement and I’m extremely proud of my guys for doing it.”
Sussex County Post sports editor
Jeff Mitchell can be reached at 629-5505