The Middletown Post 25 Firehawks hope to close the American Legion baseball season with a big run at the state tournament.

    The game ended with a slow dribbler up the third base line, not at all like what led to the Middletown Post 25 Firehawks decisive American Legion baseball victory Monday night at Silver Lake Park.

   In the bottom of the sixth inning Zach Shepps hustled home after Elliott Gardner tapped a pitch into the ground to cap Post 25’s 11-1 triumph over Delaware Post 1. Prior to that, Middletown had crushed a horde of line drives while overwhelming the visitors.

   “The key for us is to keep hitting,” said former Middletown High star Ryan Haas, who is fine-tuning his skills before returning to Delaware State University this fall for sophomore season.

   “Our pitching should be pretty consistent, but what killed us at the end of last year was our lack of hitting.”

   Salisbury University-bound catcher Julius Ryland went 3-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs, while Gardner (also at Delaware State), Haas and Jeff Yermal all knocked in two runs. The former MHS teammates have joined forces with local products from several schools to form a winning unit.

   Middletown improved to 17-5 and carries high ambitions heading into the state tournament that runs July 27 to Aug. 1 at Schutte Park in Dover. The Firehawks went 21-7 last season and won the Central Division, and now appear to be an annual contender.

   “We have a lot of mainstays from different backgrounds who have come together nicely this summer,” Middletown manager Bill Alexander said. “They’re talented, and flexible enough to play several positions to fit into the lineup however necessary.”

   Before knocking the ball around, Middletown’s gloves shined early on. In the top of the first, first baseman Kyle Husni made a quick tag after leaving the bag to snare an off-target infield toss. Third baseman Brad Alexander ended the half-inning by ranging over the line to snare a drive and throwing to first in time.

   Lefty Haas breezed through two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher, relieved by fireballing Frank Samluk and crafty Alexander to close the last four innings. The visitors didn’t get a hit until the fourth inning.

   Middletown has been infused with promising new talent, led by outfielder-pitcher Charles Brodowski, catchers Ryland and Jared Turner and all-purpose performer Yermal. Manager Alexander said Yermal has played every position by first base this season, and compared him to former Firehawk Jay Croft for his invaluable adaptability.

   OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Entering the week, Samluk led the team with a .480 batting average, followed by Haas (.468), Chad Kuhl (.455), John Beal (.364), Yermal (.362), Ryland (.333) and Andrew Blanford (.316).

   RBI leaders included Haas (21), Kuhl (13) and Yermal (11). Yermal and Samluk each had six steals, while Shepps had five. Samluk scored a team-high 18 runs, followed by Kuhl (15), Shepps (13), Haas (11), Yermal (11) and Turner (10).

   PITCHING LEADERS: Haas had a team-best 1.28 earned-run average, followed by Elliott Gardner (1.31), Kuhl (2.52), Alexander (2.70), Yermal (3.73) and Samluk (3.89). Yermal earned three victories, with Gardner and Kuhl getting two each.