Indians battle weather and opponents

It’s hard to say who is going to be the Indian River varsity baseball team’s first opponent going into the playoffs: Newark or the rain.

The Indians had the wool pulled over their eyes when the playoff brackets were made. The powers-that-be had Indian River playing Dickinson, but the seeding was done improperly and the brackets had to be rearranged.

Indian River was thus set to face off against Newark on May 25 in a rematch of an earlier non-conference, 10-1 loss. Wednesday night’s game was called off because of rain.

Head Coach Howard Smack doesn’t usually put much emphasis on non-conference games but does understand their importance.

“We threw our No. 3 and No. 4 pitchers (junior Eric Givans and freshman Trevor Abbott) against them last time. That game gave us a chance to see if we had a third pitcher,” said Smack.

“Playing against the better teams, like Caesar Rodney, St. Marks, Caravel and Newark, makes us better. We have a more veteran team now — we’re grittier,” said Smack.

The Indians have had varied success against playoff teams this season. They went 2-3 overall and 2-1 in conference games.

Smack’s team has grown this year and has developed the ability to come from behind to win games against good teams. That ability may prove important, because all the teams in the playoffs are good teams.

The Indians defeated Cape Henlopen 5-4 in a dramatic seventh-inning comeback and hung tough to beat their chief rival, Sussex Central, 12-6 on May 16 after falling behind early.

The last time they met, Newark got up early and often against Givans (his first time pitching all season) on the way to a Newark win. Indian River had a hard time hitting the ball against the team, and they may have to generate some runs through small ball to have a chance to move on in the playoffs.

“Their pitcher wasn’t overpowering, but he did have an awkward throwing motion and our guys were standing there watching him instead of hitting. Hopefully, we bring our bats to the game. But if not, we might play a little small ball, depending on the field conditions,” said Smack.

“The guys don’t like to play small ball but if you get a hit here, a line drive there, you have three or four runs before you know it,” said Smack. “They all like jacking homeruns and when one of them does it they all try to do it. A homerun isn’t anything but a mistake.”

One player who hasn’t allowed many mistakes this season is starting pitcher Colin Warner.

Warner (5-1) will toe the rubber for the Indians against Newark and Smack said he believes that will make all the difference.

“Newark is going to see a little better pitching than they did last time,” the coach said.

Warner’s power will be an asset, as it has been all season. He has shut out two teams this season and registered back-to-back 12-strikeout games.

When re-scheduled, the Indians will travel to Newark and will possibly have to play in poor conditions, so there may not be many hits on either side. Most likely, the game will come down to who wants it more. And Indian River is hungry — an important attribute of a good, competitive team.