Caesar Rodney finds a way to reach baseball state title game

By Andy Walter
Posted 5/30/24

WILMINGTON — Steven Donigan said they tried to keep the mantra simple all season.

The only thing that mattered to Caesar Rodney High’s baseball players, he said, was trying to win …

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Caesar Rodney finds a way to reach baseball state title game


WILMINGTON — Steven Donigan said they tried to keep the mantra simple all season.

The only thing that mattered to Caesar Rodney High’s baseball players, he said, was trying to win the game in front of them.

“It’s what we preached all year — ‘We’re not done yet,” said Donigan, a junior pitcher. “One more, one more, one more. ... next game, next game.

“One at a time, that’s all that matters.”

Now, the Riders have just one game left — but it’s the biggest one that the program has played in three decades.

Sixth-seeded CR out-dueled No. 2 Sussex Tech, 1-0, in a memorable DIAA state semifinal pitchers’ dual at Frawley Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

The hard-earned victory sends the Riders to the baseball state title game for the first time since 1994 and for just the fifth time in their history.

CR (16-5) will return to Frawley on Saturday for the championship game, which is slated to start at 7 p.m. The Riders will play No. 13 Salesianum, which knocked off top-seeded Sussex Central, 7-5, in eight innings in Thursday's second semifinal.

CR’s only baseball state championship came in 1975 when the Riders beat Claymont, 7-2.

“It’s a feeling I can’t even describe,” said Riders’ coah Jeff Gravatt. “We’ll enjoy this tonight and tomorrow we’ve got a lot of work to do to get prepared for Saturday.

“These guys are tough. Every game we go into as an underdog, we end up coming out on top. I embrace it. We’re really looking forward to Saturday.”

“We knew what we were coming into,” Donigan said about facing Sussex Tech for the second time. “We knew what they had and they knew what we had. But today we just got the best of them, that’s all you can say.”.

In a rematch that was remarkably similar to the Ravens’ 1-0 win during the regular season — the first one was even played at Frawley — Donigan and Sussex Tech righthander Gavin Hudson didn’t allow even a baserunner in the first four innings.

Finally, in the sixth, CR catcher Ethan Wisler led off the inning by bouncing a single up the middle. Shortstop Graham Buckson reached base on a fielder’s choice and went to second on a ground ball.

With two outs, sophomore Will Lorentz then blooped an opposite-field single to score Buckson. The ball landed just inside the right-field line.

Lorentz also drove in the game-winning run in the seventh in the Riders’ 4-3 win over Dover on Saturday.

“I just poked it over the first baseman’s head and got the job done, I guess,” said Lorentz. “As soon as it came off the bat, I thought it was fair. I was just praying.”

The Ravens’ Hudson had 11 strikeouts while allowing only three hits.

Sussex Tech’s best chance to score may have been in the bottom of the fifth. Rosnell Lewis put down a nice bunt for a single and then stole second and third.

Donigan struck out two but then a walk and a stolen base put runners on second and third. Donigan, however, got a strikeout to get out of the jam.

In the sixth, a walk and an infield single from Sean Ely put two runners on with only one out. But Wisler threw out a runner trying to steal third and Donigan got another strikeout to end the inning.

Donigan allowed just two hits and struck out 10.

“I came in here confident,” said the left-hander. “I had a team that had my back.

“I do what I’ve done all year. I worked pitch to pitch, don’t think about the next at-bat. Don’t think about the last pitch. Just get the job done.”

“He was just unbelievable,” said Gravatt. “He did that exact same outing when we played them the first time. We just couldn’t manufacture any runs. We were on the other side of that 1-0 loss.”

Donigan got the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh before having to leave the contest because of pitch limits.

The Ravens prompty got two runners on by walk. But reliever Colby Rail got a foul pop-up that was caught by Wisler to end the game.

CR’s players came streaming out of the dugout to celebrate after winning their fifth game in a row.

The Riders know if they can win one more game, they can call themselves the school’s first baseball state champions in 39 years.

“It’s been 30 years? That’s what our coach was telling us,” Lorentz said about being in the finals. “That’s insane. Hopefully we can win it all. That’d be amazing.

“It’s not really a surprise. We work so hard and it’s paying off. It’s awesome playing with these guys.”

“We’ve talked about this since we lost to Sallies (in last year’s state tournament),” said Donigan. “We were ready. We stepped up today.
“It’s chemistry. We all love each other and we’ll go to war for each other every day.”

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