Caesar Rodney reaches baseball semis for first time in 13 years

By Andy Walter
Posted 5/28/24

CAMDEN — With 16 players, Caesar Rodney High doesn’t have the biggest baseball roster around.

But senior Patrick Easton said that also makes this a pretty close-knit group.

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Caesar Rodney reaches baseball semis for first time in 13 years


CAMDEN — With 16 players, Caesar Rodney High doesn’t have the biggest baseball roster around.

But senior Patrick Easton said that also makes this a pretty close-knit group.

“This is the smallest team we’ve had since I’ve been here but we’re a brotherhood,” he said. “I’ve played with these kids since I was 10, 11, 12. We know each other inside out.”

CR has taken that team chemistry and turned into the best season the program has had in a long time.

On Tuesday, the sixth-seeded Riders extended that season for at least another game by putting away a 12-7 victory over No. 19 Middletown in the DIAA state quartefinals.

CR (15-5) will make the program’s first appearance in the state semifinals since 2011 when it faces second-seeded Sussex Tech (18-3) at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Frawley Stadium. The contest is being played in the morning because Sussex Tech has its graduation later in the day.

Ironically, this will be the second time the two teams have met in Frawley this season. On April 23, the Ravens edged the Riders, 1-0, on a seventh-inning run in Wilmington.

Top-seeded Sussex Central will take on No. 13 Salesianum in the 2 p.m. semifinal at Frawley.

On Tuesday, the Riders grabbed the lead for good with six runs in the bottom of the first inning. They sent 10 batters to the plate.

The Cavaliers (12-9, who knocked off No. 2 Cape Henlopen on Saturday, answered with three runs in the top of the second, But CR came right back with five more runs in the bottom of the second to open up an 11-3 advantage..

“We were convinced we were going to play Cape,” said Easton. “Having them beat Cape was a real shock.

“This school hasn’t been to the semis in I don’t even know how long. As a senior, it’s probably my last time playing baseball. We’re making a run. I love this team so much.”

“We knew how tough that team was,” CR coach Jeff Gravatt said about Middletown. “They had one of the hardest schedules in the state. We knew it was going to be a tough game for us to win.

“We had to hit and that’s what we focused on. From start to finish, we were mentally tough at the plate. We put pressure on them to make plays.”

Still, Middletown kept battling. The Cavs finished with a 12-9 edge in hits but stranded seven runners on base between the third and sixth innings.

Defensively, Middletown committed five errors while walking six and hitting a batter.

Considering that the Riders had lost to the Cavs three straight times between 2021-23, CR wasn’t complaining.

“We were never comfortable,” said Gravatt. “We were going to score as many runs as we were possibly able to score no matter how many they had — simply because we know how potent that (Middletown) offense is.”

All nine of the Riders’ hits were singles. Starting pitcher Anthony Hatch, Evan Fowler, Graham Buckson and Easton each had two hits.

Easton and Buckson had back-to-back two-out, two-run singles in the first-inning outburst. Easton added two more RBI on a single in the second.

Senior Carter Boyd had a three-run double in the second for the Cavs, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Losing to Sussex Tech 1-0 the first time was heartbreaker for the Riders, who now have a four-game winning streak themselves.

Considering that CR lost 11 seniors from last season, Gravatt said it’s been rewarding to see how this group has come together.

“There were a lot of unknowns coming into the season,” he said. “They’re just playing complimentary baseball. ... It’s just been great to see. That was a great team win.

“They’re getting a taste of winning and what it takes to win. They’re finding ways to come out on the winning end of things against great teams.”

Gravatt said he has a great deal of respect for Sussex Tech coach G. L. Jefferson, who he considers a good friend.

“They’re a very familiar opponent,” said Gravatt. “We’re very familiar with their lineup, they’re very familiar with ours. To run it back with them at Frawley. .... this is the one that counts.”

At this stage of the season, CR just wants to stick with what has gotten them this far.

“(Former CR wrestling coach) Dan Rigby talked to us yesterday,” said Easton. “He was like, ‘Even though the stage is getting bigger, you can’t change what you’re doing. You can’t switch up the mojo.’

“You can’t think too much about it. If you’re trying too hard, it’s just not going to work. Baseball is one of those games where anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”

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