The 2018 high school baseball season is scheduled to begin this week, with several local contending teams from a year ago looking to duplicate those feats while also taking another step forward.
Playing within the tough Henlopen North Division, the Cape Henlopen Vikings and Sussex Tech Ravens are looking to build off their playoff appearances last year behind solid groups of returning players.
A season removed from a 12-6 mark and a trip to the DIAA Baseball State Tournament Quarterfinals, Cape Henlopen enters the new season with their eyes on even more this season.
While the Vikings lost seven seniors to graduation from last year’s team, they return a talented group of players including this year’s senior class, Zach Dale, Austin Elliott, David Erickson, Zach Gelof, Sam Johnson, Zach Savage and Richard White.
Along with the senior returnees, Cape has quite a few underclassmen back in the fold including Mason Fluharty, Ryan Gibbons, Tim Vitella, Jakob Gelof and Lucas Johnson.
“With the amount of returnees this year on varsity, we’re really excited about the possibilities of how far this team can progress,” said Cape Henlopen Head Coach Ben Evick. “They’ve been putting in the work all year long in the weight room and on the field preparing for this season. The leadership shown from our seniors already has been great. There’s a lot of excitement and expectations are very high for the season.”
Even with so many experienced players returning, Evick says the challenges at the beginning of remain largely the same. There’s still a gelling process that needs to happen, while also getting the new player integrated into the program.
For Evick, the most important part of getting the team on the same page weighs on himself and the coaching staff.
“It’s my job to set the tone for the expectations for the team and to provide them with a rigorous practice plan as well as a challenging schedule that tests their limits,” Evick said. “This year’s team has taken the challenge head-on.”
Fellow Henlopen North foe, Sussex Tech, also has a number of player returning from last year and like the Vikings, are hoping to build upon what they accomplished last season.
Fresh off an 11-7 mark and trip to the DIAA Baseball State Tournament, the Ravens enter the new season with several senior returnees while also looking for players to plug-in replacing graduating players.
The Ravens lost three players to graduation, including Hunter Hardesty, Anthony Hitchcock and Luke Oliphant but bring back a strong senior class this season which includes Jason Grenshaw, Austin Kapela, Jared Kay, Brady Parks and Dustin Rolph.
“We have five seniors returning from last season, we’ll undoubtedly rely on their leadership and work ethic being that we also have four freshman on varsity this season,” said Sussex Tech Head Coach GL Jefferson.”
Joining the returning seniors on this year’s squad are returning juniors, Braydan Graham, Trey Hatfield and Matt Warrington.
While the Ravens have some experience coming back, they also have a handful of new faces this season in underclassmen David Allen, Noah Covington, Robert Locklear, Luke Shockley, Ethan Ward, Jeff Clausen, Tyler Heder, Grant Lamers, Alex Adams, Will Boyle and Jason Shockley.
With so many new players, Coach Jefferson says getting everyone on the same page is a problem all teams face, but it can be a unique issue for Tech.
“Learning all the new personalities and getting the team to gel [can be a challenge,]” said Jefferson. “Being a technical school, our kids come from all over Sussex County and many have not played together in the past - in some years, this can pose challenges.”
Sussex Tech and Cape Henlopen will open their 2018 schedule against one another this Friday at Sussex Tech, first pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.