Accomplished Cape Henlopen Trio Looking For More
November 14, 2016
By Brian Burden
Special Contributor to PBR MD
Cape Henlopen High School, located In Lewes, Delaware, has had good baseball teams for a long time. However, a current triumvirate of Division-I-caliber juniors may elevate the program to a level it has not reached before: State Champs.
Zack Gelof, Austin Elliott and David Erickson are part of a Vikings squad that has made the Delaware Interscholastic Association (DIAA) playoffs each of the last two seasons, reaching the state final in 2015, where it lost to Appoquinimink. That was the team’s first trip to the final, but a return date may come sooner rather than later.
“We have a good program,” Gelof said. “Everyone accepts their roles on this team. “If you look at every great team, they push each other to the limit. That is what we want to do.”
Gelof and Elliott have played every inning since making coach Ben Evick’s varsity squad as freshmen. Named second team all-state as a sophomore at shortstop, Gelof is a tremendous overall athlete. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Rehoboth Beach native runs a 6.7-60 and his fastball has reached the upper 80s. He batted .459 (28 for 61) this past spring, driving in 14, while stealing 25 bases in 25 attempts. He also went 1-1 on the mound after posting a 3-1 record as a freshman, and is currently the top-ranked prospect in Prep Baseball Report’s Maryland/Delaware Class of 2018.
“Zack is one of the most mentally mature players to come across this program,” said Evick, who also played for the Vikings before playing collegiately at UNC Greensboro. “He understands that it is a game of failure, and he is easily able to move on to the next play. He gets it all.”
Gelof was the first to verbally commit, selecting Virginia in June of 2015.
“I visited there winter, spring and summer of my freshman year, and it has been a dream to play for them.”
Elliott, the second ranked prospect in the 2018 class, also started from the get-go for the Vikings, which have won 14 games each of the past two seasons. He earned all-state status as both an outfielder, as he hit .442 (23-for-52) with seven doubles, two home runs and 22 RBIs, and as a pitcher, where he went 5-2 with 51 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA.
“Austin was all over everybody’s radar,” Evick said. “He came in and took a position and owned it.”
Elliott is already preparing this offseason, working to get bigger and stronger and faster. He is also trying to add more velocity, and working to locate his changeup better so he can throw it in any count.
“I have a good curve, with a lot of break to it, and a change-up that is straight over the top,” Elliott said. “It gives it a lot of movement. There is deception in the way I throw. I have an aggressive, but slow leg drive. It makes timing a bit weird.”
Elliott also committed to the school of his dreams, as the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder verbally committed to the University of North Carolina this past summer.
“It has been a dream of mine, basically since I was born, of playing there. I just loved watching them when I was growing up.”
Gelof, who has also played a starring role in midfield for the Viking’s boys soccer team, and Elliott, who formerly played basketball, are talented in multiple sports at multiple positions.
“Since PBR came to Maryland, Austin and Zack have been on our radar as top 2018 talents when both came to our very first event, the Maryland Preseason ID, said Jerry Shank of Prep Baseball Report. “Both have two-way potential and look to have their best years ahead of them.”
Not to be outdone, Erickson came aboard varsity as a sophomore, and shone on the mound immediately. The 6-foot, 190-pounder went 5-2 with 41 strikeouts and a 1.19 ERA while earning the team’s pitching MVP award. He was brilliant in a first-round playoff game against Salesianum, striking out seven in a complete-game, 2-1 victory. He also hit .315 (17-for-54) with one home run and 15 RBIs while providing stellar defense at third base.
“David was a JV stud his freshman year; I just was not sure where he would fit in on varsity,” Evick said. “He has amazing command of all of his pitches. There are not many in the area with his kind of command who also throw heat.”
Erickson, ninth in PBR’s 2018 rankings, committed to new coach Scott Jackson and Liberty earlier this year.
“I felt pretty confident after that playoff performance,” Erickson said. “I gained three miles on my fastball over the summer and I feel very good out there.”
Getting high-level talent at Cape Henlopen is nothing new for Evick, who has churned out several Division I players, including Delaware’s Diaz Nardo, who was a four-year player with the Vikings.
“Our goal is always to try and get these guys to the next level,” Evick said.
However, Evick acknowledges that the current situation is quite a luxury.
“To have a group of three come through at the same time --- we are just lucky,” Evick said. “It’s not too often that you get this, but they have competed at a high level from the get-go. They have set the bar high for themselves and they are all similar in terms of their approach and their demeanor. They are also all good students, and those schools are going to get the complete package with each of them.”
There is plenty of time before those next level dreams are realized, and the three juniors, who have played with or near each other since they were eight, are looking to rebound from a quarterfinal loss to St. Mark’s. Their class is expected to return eight players, four or five of whom could play collegiately, and a top-notch sophomore class is coming right behind to push them. Visions of a first state crown are a realistic goal for the program.
“This is our team now, and we understand the work ethic needed to make the playoffs and go far,” Elliott said. “We have gone the farthest Cape has ever been, and we want to go further.”