Playoff bound: Milford baseball clinches South with win at Sussex Tech

Milford (shown here after defeating Lake Forest) is the Henlopen South champion. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Milford (shown here after defeating Lake Forest) is the Henlopen South champion. (Milford Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

GEORGETOWN – Milford has punched its postseason baseball ticket.

A year removed from their worst season under head coach Nick Brannan, the Buccaneers by way of defeating Sussex Tech 8-5 in eight innings Friday afternoon, clinched the Henlopen South championship and an automatic playoff berth.

Second place Indian River (7-9 overall, 6-6 Henlopen) is a game behind Milford (9-6, 7-5) in the division standings and each has a conference game remaining. But if the teams finished in a tie, the Buccaneers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to an 8-2 win over the Indians on April 17.

“What a difference a year makes,” Brannan said. “For the kids to have experienced what they did last year and understand what it takes to turnaround from one season to the next… They earned the (playoff) berth.”

Not only did Milford earn the postseason spot with its work so far this campaign but also the victory over what was the Henlopen North’s frontrunner Sussex Tech.

Trailing 2-0 through four innings the Bucs rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game then plated six in the first extra frame. It was the first comeback victory for Milford this season.

Sophomore Abraham Mow reached on an error to start the eighth and junior Phillip Herber followed with a single. Senior Tom Saxon (2-for-4 with a double) then lined a single to right that gave the Buccaneers a 3-2 lead and set the stage for the outburst.

“Going up there I was just thinking that I had to get something to hit,” said the left-handed Saxon, whose single came off Ravens freshman southpaw Brady Parks. “I used to struggle with it, but I almost like hitting lefties now.

“Going into the season, we knew we had the potential to do this (win the South), and to see us finally do what we’re capable of is awesome.”

From there the wheels fell off for Sussex Tech (12-3, 9-3), as the Ravens committed multiple errors and issued several walks allowing Milford five more runs in the inning.

Senior Dustin Reeder picked up the win from the mound with a seven-inning effort that included 11 strikeouts. Reeder started the eighth but was lifted for Mow after the Ravens strung together some hits, and the sophomore eventually closed the door for Milford.

It was the second time Reeder worked into extra innings against a top Henlopen North team. He went nine in a 12-inning bout with Dover at Frawley Stadium, a game the Senators eventually won 4-3.

“We’re a South team and people don’t have high expectations of us, so I like going into big games knowing we have a chance to win,” Reeder said. “I’d rather pitch in big games. More people in the stands, it’s a harder challenge and it just prepares you better for the next level.”

Fielding woes plagued Milford early in the contest allowing Tech to take a 2-0 lead after two innings. RBI hits from junior Shawn Snowden and sophomore William Kimmel tied things up in in the fifth where it stayed until the fireworks in the eighth.

Editor’s note: Sussex Tech entered the game tied with Dover in the loss column in the Henlopen North race. The Ravens, who hold the tiebreaker over the Senators, now need to defeat Polytech on Tuesday and hope Dover is upset by either Lake Forest or Delmar to win the North. Tech is still likely an at-large playoff team even if it doesn’t win the division.

Milford concludes conference play at home Tuesday versus Laurel. The Buccaneers will wrap up the regular season with a Thursday game versus St. Elizabeth at Canby Park and then have Delaware Military Academy Friday at home.

State tournament play is scheduled to begin on May 23.

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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