Caesar Rodney falls short of baseball state title

By Andy Walter
Posted 6/1/24

WILMINGTON — Halfway through Saturday night’s game, Caesar Rodney High could see its way to a state title.

Going in the fifth inning, the Riders held a one-run lead on Salesianum in …

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Caesar Rodney falls short of baseball state title


WILMINGTON — Caesar Rodney High’s baseball players will have a lot of great memories from the past few weeks.

But the fifth inning of Saturday night’s DIAA state championship game won’t be one of them.

Trailing by one, No. 13 Salesianum erupted for five runs in the top of the fifth and turned into a 7-3 victory over sixth-seeded Riders before a boisterous crowd of over 2,300 at Frawley Stadium.

In denying CR (16-6) the program’s first state crown in the sport since 1975, the Sals (16-7) won their first state title since 2008. The championship was Sallies’ seventh overall.

Trailing 2-1, the Sals collected five hits and sent eight runners to the plate in the outburst.

It was the last of those hits that most people will remember, though.

Sallies had already scored twice to go up 3-2 and had two runners on base when the Sals’ Jude Swift lined a hit to left. The Riders’ left fielder slipped and fell as the ball ended up in the corner.

All three runners scored on what turned into an inside-the-park homer.

CR coach Jeff Gravatt argued that the play should have been blown dead after the fielder put his hands up because the ball went under the fence padding.

But, when no signal was made, the fielder also picked up the ball and threw it in.

By rule, he needed to leave the ball under the fence so the umpire could check it.

The four umpires deliberated before deciding that all three runs scored. Gravatt clearly did not agree with the explanation as he left the field.

“It wasn’t discussed at the plate meeting (before the game),” said Gravatt. “When you put your hands up, you’re supposed to let the runners finish running and then make a decision.

“No other comment other than that. It was a tough play.”

Even if the umpires had ruled in CR’s favor, the Sals still would have come out of the inning with at least a 4-2 lead.

The Riders scored a run in the bottom of the fifth while Sallies answered with a run in the top of the sixth.

Gravatt thought his players were still playing hard after the call in the fifth.

“It’s a deflating play but I thought we competed the rest of the game,” he said. “I was proud of the guys.

“Credit to Sallies. They did a good job pitching today and kept us off balance.“
Sallies out-hit the Riders, 11-6, in the contest, including five for extra bases.

After giving up a run to the Sals in the top of the first, the Riders bounced back.

In the bottom of the third, Colby Rall lined a ball to right centerfield that the Salesianum centerfielder dove for and missed. Rall ended up on third where Teegan Monroney singled him home.

That gave CR its first lead of the night at 2-1.

The Riders fell behind 1-0 in the first inning when a triple from the Sals’ Matt Speicher was followed by a sacrifice fly.

But CR tied the contest in the bottom of the second. After a pair of walks, senior first baseman Patrick Easton lined an RBI single to left to score Evan Fowler.

Despite the loss, Easton said it was a memorable finish to his career to reach the state finals. The Riders were in the state finals for the first time in 30 years.

“This us the best group of boys I’ve been around,” he said. “We may not be the best team that ever touched Caesar Rodney but I think our results prove we’re pretty resilient.

“Even when we were down, we fought. Things just didn’t do go our way. ... All year we’ve fought back in the sixth and seventh inning.

“It (the fifth-inning play) probably did have some kind of toll but I wouldn’t say it’s why we lost. We still had two innings to do something.”

With a number of good young players on the roster, the Riders hope they don’t have to wait another 30 years to get another chance in a championship game.

“They got a taste of it once,” said Easton. “They’re going to want to come back”

“It was great,” said Gravatt. “We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team. We told them afterward, it was a great experience for them. If we’re ever in this moment again, this is going to help them.

“It was a big moment. The crowd was phenomenal. The energy was unlike any high school game I’ve been part of.”

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