WILMINGTON — Salesianum trailed Appoquinimink three times during the teams’ baseball battle April 8 in Wilmington, including twice in extra innings. But the Sals rebounded each time they fell behind, and they put two runs across in the bottom of the ninth to take a 6-5 victory.
The Sals, ranked fourth in the state by Delaware Live/302Sports, held a 3-2 lead heading into the fifth inning, but the No. 1 Jaguars were able to tie the score. Dillon Peden was on second base with two outs, and Austin Prior drilled a single to center field to tie the score.
Neither team could score in the sixth or seventh innings, so it was on to extras. In the eighth, the Jaguars’ Keegan Miller led off with a single to center. He scored the go-ahead run when the next batter, Aidan Fleming, tripled to deep left field on the fenceless Salesianum field. Lorenzo Carrier walked — his fifth time on base — to put runners at first and third. But a line drive to right field on a hit-and-run turned into a double play, and a strikeout kept Salesianum out of further trouble.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ben Venema reached on a one-out single. Jaguars pitcher Chase Fleming got the next batter on a strikeout, and he appeared to have Venema picked off a few pitches later. The throw from first to second, however, hit Venema, and he was safe. Fleming struck out another batter, but Conor Campbell saved the Sals with a single to center that brought Venema home.
Pinch-hitter Colby Niggebrugge singled to open the ninth for Appo. Jacob Blair laid down a sacrifice bunt, and with no one covering third, Niggebrugge never stopped at second. The throw from first went out of play, allowing Niggebrugge to come home with another go-ahead run.
With daylight beginning to fade, the Sals went to work in the bottom of the ninth. Brian Lang led off with a single, bringing Brody Valentine to the plate. He put down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first skipped into foul territory, allowing Lang to come all the way around to score while Valentine advanced to second. Jack Dunion bunted, and with no play at first, the Sals had runners at the corners with nobody out. Deuce Rzucidlo was walked intentionally to load the bases. That brought Venema to the dish. On an 0-1 count, Venema lofted a fly ball to deep center field. Carrier caught up to it for the out, but Valentine was able to score easily on the sacrifice fly to bring the game to its conclusion.
It was a fitting end to a game that was entertaining from the get-go. The Jaguars scored two in the top of the first on a hit batsman, a fielder’s choice, a single and a walk, plus a Sallies error. Valentine, the Sals’ starter, escaped further damaged by getting the final three batters on two strikeouts and a fly ball.
The Sals had runners reach third base in each of the first three innings but were unable to score any of them. They broke through in the fourth in a big way. With two outs, Ryan James got things started with a walk, and Luke Swift was hit by a pitch. That brought up Lang. He turned on a fastball and sent it over the leftfielder’s head. Without a fence, the ball rolled a ways, and Lang circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run to give his team the one-run lead.
Unofficially, the Sals finished with eight hits. Lang had two of them, plus two runs scored and three RBI. Dunion also had two hits. James got the win in relief. The Sals (3-0) will take on Sussex Tech on Saturday at Frawley Stadium at 3 p.m. It is the second of five games for the team in an eight-day stretch.
The Jaguars also had eight hits, with Carrier collecting two of them. Appo fell to 2-2; they host Sussex Central on Saturday at noon as they start a five-game homestand.
All photos by Mike Lang.