The Dover Senators’ baseball program is no stranger to success, winning at least 11 games in each of the last six seasons. The Senators continued that trend this past season, winning the Henlopen Conference title and advancing to the state tournament. However, Dover’s 2014 campaign had a deeper meaning than Senators’ baseball seasons of the past even if they weren’t able to walk away with the state title.
The Senators entered the season hoping to duplicate 2013 where they posted a 13-5 record while advancing to the state semi-finals before being eliminated by Caravel Academy. With a blooming program made up of a small but formidable senior class and a larger group of contributing underclassmen, the Senators finished with a 14-4 season, good enough to clinch their first Henlopen Conference title in 32 years.
“Just another great and successful season for us this year,” said Dover head coach Dave Gordon. “I’m really proud of my guys, I know how much work they put into this past season and during the off season to get us as far as we did.”
Despite their 14-4 record, the Senators were seeded in the No. 10 spot in the state tournament. First, the Senators upset No. 7 Salesianum 13-4 stunning the Sallies’ crowd. Then, Dover moved onto the second round where they trounced No. 2 Archmere 14-0 in a game that was played over two days due to rainy weather.
The Senators found themselves once again in the state semifinals with an all too familiar opponent waiting in the wings, the Caravel Academy Buccaneers. Dover put up a strong effort against Caravel, leading by one run in the sixth inning before the Bucs pulled away with a three-run bottom half to eliminate Dover for the second straight season.
Even though the Senators came up short of their ultimate goal, the team has plenty of reasons to be proud of their season.
“We crossed that bridge four times in seven days,” said Gordon, alluding to the trip to northern Delaware during the tournament. “We go to Salesianum and put up big numbers in front of their crowd which was gratifying, then go to Archmere two separate days and beat them in every part of the game and mercy rule them, we have a lot to be proud of.”
“We went up against a tough Caravel team that has a kid in (Brandon) Fraley who will more than likely be a top pick in the MLB draft in a few years,” said Gordon. “It shows you how good of a team you are, unfortunately they were able to put some runs up, though it was a great game.”
Not only can the Senators look back and be proud of their accomplishments from this past season, but they’ll also be a part of history. Not only did the Senators win their first baseball conference title in 32 years, but they did so during the last season of play on the old Dover High School fields before the new school opens in the fall.
“It’s pretty neat, I don’t think the kids really realized that it was our last time out there and what it means to people,” said Gordon. “I mean, my dad and brother played on that field, kid’s I’m coaching – their dads played on the field, it means a lot.”
Gordon referred back to a time when Dover baseball wasn’t so good, and how important what they accomplished this season is for the program and the surrounding community that supports them.
“In the late 90s Dover baseball was not very good, I remember back then when everyone took the field there was no one left in the dugout, so it was pretty embarrassing,” said Gordon. “So, to turn it around to now and get that accomplishment done is great. Last year we lost it on the last day to Polytech after Connor Chasanov pitched a great game against us, so it feels good to knock that wall down and end the drought.”
With one drought ended, the Senators still have a state title in their sites. After losing just four seniors, Jonathan Carson, Tavarus Sample, Tyler Cullen, and Nick Spadafino, the majority of the team will return intact next season.
“We had a small but a great senior class as far as leadership goes, they had great work ethic just role model type guys,” said Gordon. “First thing I’m proud of heading into next season is having possibly 12 seniors. I’m pretty sure we haven’t had a double-digit senior class in 20 years. These guys believe in the program and they want to be a part of it. Senior day will be great to be able to acknowledge them all next season. You have Dakota Graham, Aaron Jenkins, Jordan Hutchins, Tevin Thomas, Zach Stone, Jared Rowley and Garrett Lawson, I can go on and on. I believe we have a great mix of hitters and defenders.”
With so many players returning to the fold next season, Gordon believes the team’s deep tournament runs the last few years will benefit the returnees greatly. Especially those who will be filling roles left behind by departing seniors.
“It’s great for those guys, the main guys they’ve had two runs so we’re coming back with a lot of experience, and a been there before kind of attitude,” Gordon said. “You have guys like Tevin (Thomas) and Garrett (Lawson) who have been sitting on the bench and getting a taste of it, and another year for a guy like Jordan (Hutchins). You can’t put a price tag on experience.”
Come next season, Gordon and the Senators will defend their conference title with loftier goals now set for themselves. A state title is not out of the question in Gordon’s mind, believing the Senators have the necessary pieces to take home the state crown even next season.
“We’re right there, I consider us a top five team in the state,” said Gordon. “Not always the best teams win, and we feel that after the last few years that we’re right there. Sometimes you need a little luck but we’re still looking for that little bit of luck to get us over the hump.”
While the venue will change for the Senators next year, the goal has not. Gordon and his squad are ready to bring the tradition of Dover baseball over to the new school to start a whole new generation of success.
“We’ve played some meaningful games and it’s been a lot of fun to watch,” said Gordon. “We’re ready for a new field, a new year, and new tradition.”