Falling to 1-3 after a loss to Sussex Tech on Friday, April 8, was a low point for the Indian River High School softball team. It was also, however, a turning point.
“It kind of woke them up,” explained head coach Erika Brittingham. “We, as coaches, told them that we’ve given a lot of our wins away. I think, after the Tech game, we had one practice where we just really sat and talked about that, and since then they’ve really turned it around.”
“After that game, I think everyone knew that that’s not the team that we were, and we had to pick it up,” added senior CF Callie McDowell. “When we went into CR, we knew we needed a win.”
A win is exactly what the Indians got against North rival Caesar Rodney in their next game, improving to 2-3 and pulling out the victory in the bottom of the seventh after freshman 1B Samantha Mayfield knocked in sophomore 3B Braydee Whitman for the game-winning RBI.
The momentum kept going on Monday, April 18, when the Indians took down Maryland’s Parkside, 6-2, to get back to .500.
The hits started early and often in the first inning of that matchup, when junior 2B Madi McGee showcased some speed by beating the throw to first with a leadoff infield single. After sophomore DH Damya Williams sent her to third on a bunt the next at-bat, McGee would score on a sac-fly from junior 1B Sammi Mumford, to give the Indians the 1-0 advantage.
Stealing second, Williams would push the lead to 2-0 when sophomore pitcher Marley Evans came in to bat cleanup and dropped a shot into left for an RBI-single.
“We weren’t really pressing for hits,” said Evans. “We were just going up there, and if it was a good pitch, we were swinging at it.”
“Our team has always been able to hit,” added Brittingham. “I think now we’re hitting our pitches and not chasing the pitchers.”
In the same inning, still with no outs, sophomore 3B Braydee Whitman took the plate and blasted a deep shot toward the fence that scored freshman pitcher Nicole Patille, who — after being called upon as a pinch runner — slid into home plate, to make it 3-0.
The Rams threatened to cut the deficit early in the next inning; however, after seeing the bases loaded, Evans showed some composure on the hill by striking out her next batter and getting another to pop up, to get the Indians out of the inning unscathed.
Senior RF Ky’Lesha Neal got the hitting going again in the bottom of the second, cracking a shot down the third-base line for a single. Neal would score from second after an RBI-double from Williams, who made it 5-0 when sophomore CF Julia Bomhardt rocked a deep shot to left for the Indians’ third double of the day.
Defensively, the Indians saw only one error on the day and eight strikeouts from Evans, who pitched five innings before freshman pitcher Abby O’Shields closed down the game while tossing three strikeouts of her own.
The win put the Indians at 3-3 on the season, while they geared up for a four-game stretch of Henlopen South opponents — starting with a road matchup against Lake Forest (6-2, 3-0) on Friday, April 22, at 4:15 p.m.
The Spartans currently lead the historically tough division; however, coming off two big wins, the Indians said they were ready to put them to the test.
“That’s gonna be a very important game for us. I think that’s gonna be our hardest game so far,” said McDowell. “Lake can hit the ball. But so can we.”