DOVER — King and Strawberry Crest played their regular-season district finale Friday night, with the Lions playing for a 10-game sweep of 6A-11 and the Chargers hoping to hang onto their No. 2 seed.
Both teams sent their No. 2 pitchers to the mound, King’s Brandon Caples and Strawberry Crest’s Tanner Thompson, and they kept the offensive to a minimum. However, the Lions found ways to score in a 4-1 victory. They notched runs in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings and built a four-run lead. Caples struck out the last batter in the seventh.
The Lions’ sweep of the district is a first in school history.
“He (Caples) has taken the ball for us four years, and both me and the team have all the confidence in the world in him,” Lions coach Jim Macaluso said. “We haven’t had to switch the rotation all year.”
Caples went seven innings, giving up one earned run and five hits while striking out nine. The Chargers got their run and three hits in the final inning, but Caples was able to escape tight situations in the sixth and seventh innings.
“I knew their strengths and their weaknesses so I attacked that,” Caples said. “Now we know I’m good in pressure situations for districts, regionals and hopefully beyond.”
Thompson pitched well through 5 1/3 innings, walking three, striking out two and giving up two earned runs on four hits, but the Lions kept him on edge with aggressive baserunning.
“Everyone knows that’s part of what we do, we don’t go out there and knock your socks off,” Macaluso said.
Some sharp fielding plays by the Chargers kept the game in reach. Centerfielder Jeffrey Murray made two running catches, second baseman Nick Brocato stabbed two shots that were headed to the outfield and turned them into putouts, and the Chargers executed a 5-3-2 double play to end the fourth inning. The Lions stranded eight.
King’s Sam Rowe went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored. His shot to leftfield in the fifth inning had the stadium holding its breath before the ball was caught. It scored a run from third.