Bats carry Sussex Central to baseball win over CR

GEORGETOWN – Playoff baseball is still a month away.

But for current bubble teams, every game from here through the last day of the regular season – May 20 – is important.

A pair of those teams met on a breezy, chilly Thursday afternoon outside of Georgetown and thanks to a quick start with the bats and a solid pitching effort from senior Brody Grove, host Sussex Central defeated Henlopen North rival Caesar Rodney 8-4.

Senior Dustin Reynolds and the Knights scored eight runs in three innings to beat CR. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Senior Dustin Reynolds and the Knights scored eight runs in three innings to beat CR. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

The victory moved Central to 6-4 overall, and 5-2 in conference play, while CR’s loss dropped the Riders to 4-5, 4-2.

“Today we made a solid effort, got after them early with some big hits and had another good pitching performance out of Brody Grove,” said Golden Knights head coach Todd Brock, whose team sits a game behind Henlopen North leaders Sussex Tech and Dover in the conference loss column with contests against both still to play. “A big conference game, Caesar Rodney, I think they were 4-1 in the conference, so it was one we needed to have for any chance at the conference championship.”

Leading 4-1 after two innings, Central broke the game open in the bottom of the third.

Junior Jacob Swift’s two-RBI single that plated courtesy runner Sal Ingrassia (for junior catcher Deron Doherty) and sophomore Trey Toppin capped a four-run Knights rally that proved to put the game out of reach.

“He (Caesar Rodney starter Jacob Williams) gave me a fastball right down the middle and I hit it right back up the middle where it was supposed to go,” said Swift, who added the Knights are well aware of the task ahead of them. “We have to move forward, we can’t dwell in the past. There’s no room for error.”

Central took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when senior Justin Mears singled home Ingrassia and Toppin crossed on a fielder’s choice off Swift’s bat, one in which the latter made possible by beating out a potential inning-ending double play attempt.

CR got one back in its half of the second, but the Knights responded with two more runs that pushed their advantage to 4-1.

Seniors Dustin Reynolds and Robbie Marcelle both scored for Central in its half of the frame when Doherty (3-for-4) hit a high fly ball that got caught up in the wind and Riders right fielder Takoda Bendolph misplayed.

Junior Deron Doherty (24) is congratulated by teammates. Doherty had three hits  versus the Riders.  (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Junior Deron Doherty (24) is congratulated by teammates. Doherty had three hits versus the Riders. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Grove worked around Cameron Ervin’s leadoff double in the third and tossed a scoreless fourth before walks and a throwing error by Doherty in the fifth allowed CR to plate a pair of runs and make the score 8-3. He then worked a scoreless sixth before handing the ball over to Ingrassia, who allowed the Riders’ last run in the seventh.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he was in his last start at Cape (Henlopen),” Brock said of Grove, who allowed five hits and struck out six. “But pitchers need to be able to win when they don’t have their best stuff. And he didn’t today but we got six innings out of him. Great effort.”

Next week Central is slated to play three games in four days, beginning with Tuesday’s key battle against Georgetown rival and North-leading Sussex Tech. The Knights are then scheduled to play at defending state champion Caravel on Thursday before finishing the week Friday with a conference game at Laurel.

“We’ve played Sussex Tech the last few years and we’ve let some games slip away,” Brock said. “We’re looking to play all four phases of the game well, and I like our chances if we can do that. CR’s a good team, Sussex Tech’s a good team. The Northern Division is the toughest conference in the state, and to win it, you have to beat good teams.”

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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