Delaware has crowned a state high school baseball champion since 1970. But Appoquinimink and Cape Henlopen are fledglings to springtime success, though for different reasons.
They continued to cement their status Saturday at Frawley Stadium with DIAA Tournament semifinal wins, setting up a Monday title game collision between the newfound rivals.
Cape Henlopen rarely made its postseason presence felt before reaching its first title game in 2015 and winning its only state title in 2018.
Appoquinimink didn’t graduate its first class until 2011, when it made what would be the first of five championship game appearances over the next 11 seasons, highlighted by 2015 and 2019 titles.
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The two advanced in a much different manner but with equal exhilaration and satisfaction this time.
No. 2-seeded Appoquininink (19-2) went first, cruising to a relatively stress free 7-2 win over Conrad.
With night having fallen, top-seeded Cape Henlopen (20-2) had a more harrowing path to its 2-1 victory over St. Mark’s.
With starter Nick Cox having reached his pitch limit, reliever Owen Daminger came on and hit a batter to load the bases with two outs in the seventh inning. He then got a strikeout swinging on a 3-2 pitch, sending teammates and Cape fans into victorious delirium.
“I knew what the stake was and I knew that this would be something special for all of us,” Daminger said. “I just did what I do always and stay calm and it’s gonna get done.”
The title game is Monday at 7 pm at Frawley Stadium.
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Appo and Cape have developed quite a rivalry over the past 10 years, always playing in the regular season – including a 2-1 Cape win this year – and Appo taking 2015 state final and 2019 state semifinal victories over the Vikings.
“I love playing them every year,” Cape coach Ben Evick said, “and to get to see them in the finals is gonna be great. It has become a bit of a rivalry. I always try to schedule the best teams in the state because that gives us a gauge. We play them every year.”
The two Appo-Cape title games, in 2015 and this year, are the only ones between two public schools in baseball since the 1990 Newark-Seaford matchup.
Cape will pitch senior Joshua Reinhold and Appo will send senior Aidan Deakins to the mound.
On Saturday, Cape managed solitary first-and second-inning runs, aided by some rare St. Mark’s defensive miscues, to offset a first-inning Spartans run. The Vikings managed just five hits, two by Cox.
Cox struck out seven and allowed just three hits before having to exit.
“I’m just so excited for this,” the junior said of reaching his first title game.
Cape has won 19 straight.
Appo is still smarting from last year’s title game loss to Delaware Military Academy and treasures the shot at another title.
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“It feels great,” said Appoquinimink pitcher Evan Bouldin, who did the job with his arm and his bat. “The team’s been working for it all year. That loss last year definitely fueled us to get back here and win it.”
Bouldin, who was state Co-Player of the Year after going 7-1 with a 1.39 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 32⅓ in during the regular season, allowed five hits and struck out six.
Equally formidable at the plate, his two doubles scored three runs.
“I definitely had all three pitches going, and when I get all three pitches going, I just trust my defense from there,” said Bouldin, who was throwing fastballs, curveballs and changeups. “We had a couple good plays backing me up and when I got that it’s hard not to win.”
“He’s always been a bulldog out there for us,” Appo coach Mike Torres said of Bouldin.
Appo’s 10-hit assault was ignited by Owen Parrish’s triple on the first pitch of the game.
“I usually like to hunt first-pitch fastball,” the junior center-fielder said, “and last game we got first hit, so we put up two the first inning last game, so that usually gets us going.”
“You talk about setting the tone,” Torres said. “Having that right off the bat was huge for his confidence and everybody else wants to replicate that.”
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