Believe it or not spring is on the way, bringing with it another high school baseball season which is scheduled to begin later this week.
Teams throughout the state have been putting in the hard work to prepare for the upcoming season, including two local teams who enter the year in very different positions. The Dover Senators, who’ve become a perennial playoff contender in the Henlopen North Division and the Lake Forest Spartans who look to bounce back after a down year in the Henlopen South Division.
For the Senators, they enter the season fresh off yet another playoff appearance. With 12 returning players from last season, Dover is hoping to continue their winning ways in 2018.
Dover lost several standouts to graduation, including Avery Tunnell, Cameron Turner, Joe Wunsch, Dmitri Floyd, Jared Hickox and Dorian Baker. However, they return with a strong group of seniors, including Joseph Gray, Trey Howard, Noah Lanouette and Sean Quirk, along with junior returnees Andrew Carney, Michael Carrington, Sam Courtney, Chris Dabney, Hiram Davis and Dylan Jacobs and sophomores Nathan Turner and Dominic Velazquez.
“We expect the tradition to continue in a positive way,” said Dover Head Coach Dave Gordon. “The goal every year at Dover is to make the playoffs and win the last game of the year - kids are buying in and we’re excited to get started.”
Gordon said his team’s biggest strength heading into the season isn’t a strong pitching rotation or even a stacked lineup at the plate, but a team mentality which is crucial for their success.
“Togetherness. Kids love playing the game and playing for Dover,” Gordon said. “My coaches enjoy teaching the game to them and it has really developed into a family atmosphere here at Dover.”
Last season, the Senators finished the season with a 13-5 mark, qualifying for the DIAA Baseball State Tournament for the eighth straight year. With experience returning, the Senators will likely find themselves in the state tournament conversation yet again.
Meanwhile, the Lake Forest Spartans are hoping to take a positive step forward as a program after a down season a year ago which saw them finish just 2-16.
While the Senators have thrived under an experienced lineup, the Spartans were the victims of inexperience last season.
“Last year, we had virtually no varsity experience so this year we should see an improvement in all areas,” said Lake Forest Head Coach Corey Wyatt. “The team has had a good offseason in the weight room which should make a difference.”
Losing just one senior to graduation, the Spartans return several players from last year’s team including seniors Tyler Chalmers, Dalton Holemo and Coleman Morris along with underclassmen Cameron Beulah, Jordan Farlow, Seth Parker, Jaden Rivera and Nathan McGray.
“This year we return most of our starting lineup from last year but some injuries have set us back a little bit,” Wyatt said. “We’re looking forward to an improved season with a year of varsity experience under our belts for the entire lineup.”
“If we can throw strikes, play solid defense and put the ball in play consistently, we should be able to compete for the Division.”
Weather throwing some teams a curveball
While the spring season is scheduled to begin later this week, the weather outside hasn’t felt very spring like and it’s impacted teams as they prepare for the new campaign, bringing up questions about the time needed to get their players ready.
“The weather has been brutal - very unfortunate for the kids to get their body in shape for the season,” Gordon said. “Getting arms ready is very difficult and it could become a safety issue early on in the season. I really wish they could give us more time to get ready.”
Like the Senators, some Spartans have also been impacted by the weather, seeing some injuries creep up before the season has begun.
“So far, the most challenging part of the season has been the weather, just getting outside and getting our arms ready to compete,” Wyatt said. “Our goals remain the same.”