By Kevin Eickman
On Tuesday evening, the Milford Buccaneers baseball team headed over to Harrington to battle Lake Forest in the second annual Battle of the Bat. Last year in the inaugural edition of the event, Milford ended up on the short end of the stick. To say that the defeat stuck in the craw of Milford would be an understatement. Speaking with players and coaches before the season began there was little doubt Milford wanted this one.
With senior Cole Davis on the hill for the Bucs, hopes were high that Milford would be able to put the Spartans away early. Both teams put up single runs in the first inning and Milford would take the lead in the top of the third courtesy of a two out, RBI single by junior Philip Herber. The run by sophomore Abraham Mow gave Milford a 2-1 advantage, that quickly began to look precarious in the bottom of the frame.
Davis had been struggling a bit early in the game and had worked himself into a difficult situation in the bottom of the third. With runners on first and third with one out, Spartan junior Tyler Collins hit a deep fly ball to right field. Milford senior Dustin Reeder tracked it down in plenty of time, time enough for him to line himself up to make a throw to the plate.
“I was always taught to anticipate and want the ball,” Reeder said. “The ball was hit to me and I just took advantage of it and threw him out.” Threw him out is an understatement, Reeder let go with a frozen rope that gunned down Spartan Jordan Simpson at the plate. Rare is the play that seems to change the course of a game, but on this occasion that was the end result of the play by Reeder. “That was a game changer for us. We were playing well to that point, but that was what really put the boys at ease,” coach Nick Brannan stated.
Milford responded immediately in the bottom of the fourth inning, butting three runs across the plate. Lake had no plans of going quietly as they managed to load up the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning. Davis had been flirting with danger all evening and letting Lake back in the game was something that the Bucs could ill afford. Davis had three strikeouts in the game, they all came in the fourth inning and none was bigger than the third one, ending the Lake threat and taking away whatever spirit they had left. “You just have to execute the pitches, forget about the runners,” said Davis.
If the Buccaneers were enthusiastic before Davis pitched out of the jam, they were absolutely delirious with what followed in the top of the fifth inning. Every play turned into an adventure for the Lake defense, every ball a challenge. There was seemingly nothing they could do right, and even when they did what they were supposed to, fate would step in and deal them an unkind blow. The result was a six run inning and an 11-1 lead, it was almost as if all the bad karma that had hurt Milford a few weeks ago was being repaid. When asked about catching a few breaks, Brannan wasn’t shy “It’s about time!” Brannan said. “These boys deserved a little bit of good luck tonight, and we won’t be ashamed about it.”
Davis would complete the fifth inning and Milford would gain a victory crucial to their playoff hopes. The win left them one conference victory away for the Henlopen South title, one that they secured with an 8-5 victory at Sussex Tech on Friday. With the South title, 9-6 Milford has qualified for the State tournament. Milford will play three games this week, two home games against Laurel Tuesday and Delaware Military Academy on Friday, both games start at 4:15. Milford will travel to Saint Elizabeth’s for a 4pm start on Thursday.