WILMINGTON — Salesianum entered its DIAA baseball state tournament game on May 22 as the eighth seed, and Cape Henlopen the ninth. The teams played about as even a game as possible for five innings before the Sals opened it up with a five-run sixth on their way to a 6-1 victory and a berth in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
The Vikings started the game on the right foot as Timothy Hitchcock rapped a single to center field. He moved to second a minute later when a pickoff attempt got by first baseman Brody Valentine, took third on a deep fly ball to right, and scored on a fielding error.
After the rough first inning, Salesianum starting pitcher Zach Czarnecki settled down. He retired the Vikings in order in the second and fourth innings and worked out of trouble in the third. A two-out single by Nick Cox in the sixth was but a minor bump in the road for Czarnecki, who got the next batter, Hitchcock, on a fly ball to center.
While Czarnecki was sailing along, so, too, was Cape starter Gage Joseph. The freshman hurler sailed through the first four innings allowing just three base runners. The first two both came with two outs, and in the fourth, a leadoff walk was erased on a 1-6-3 double play.
Joseph had plenty of help from his fielders. Cox, who started the game in center, reeled in a few would-be extra-base hits, and the infield, particularly Hitchcock at third, provided a dependable glove. But the Sals finally found a way to reach Joseph in the fifth.
Ryan James reached on Cape’s lone error with one out, an errant throw that allowed him to go to second. Ben Venema drove him in with a line single to right.
The offense exploded in the sixth. Ten batters came to the plate, and five scored.
The rally started with a blast to right field off the bat of Valentine that glanced off the glove of the rightfielder. It went for a triple. Conor Campbell knocked him in with a single through the drawn-in infield. After a pitching change, Deuce Rzucidlo reached on a sacrifice bunt fielder’s choice, and Campbell beat the throw to second. Czarnecki also bunted, and this time, Campbell beat the throw to third. Dunion then walked to drive in Campbell.
All three runners moved up a base, with Rzucidlo scoring, on a balk that made the score 4-1. Cox, who had come in to relieve Joseph, struck out two batters, but pinch-hitter Quinn Bartkowski stroked a two-run single to left to end the scoring.
Czarnecki allowed two singles in the seventh, but they were mixed in with three strikeouts.
Czarnecki allowed six hits and struck out five. Campbell was on base all three times he batted, with a run scored and the game-winning RBI. The Sals (13-5) will host No. 17 Caravel in one quarterfinal on Tuesday at a time to be announced.
For the Vikings, Hitchcock and Joshua Reinhold each had two hits. Cape closed out the year 14-6.
Another semifinal will pit No. 2 Saint Mark’s against the No. 22 seed, Smyrna. The Spartans, who will be the home team, defeated Indian River on a walkoff single by Garrett Quinn. Saint Mark’s edged the Eagles, 1-0, in 10 innings during the regular season.
All photos by Mike Lang.