The best chance any team has to win a game is in playing hard, maintaining their concentration and never, ever quitting. Indian River did just that as they beat their chief rival, Sussex Central, 12-6 on May 16.
The first two innings resembled a war of attrition. Neither team was able to get a foothold and get into scoring position — until the Golden Knights sprang on the Indians.
Freshman Nick Kmetz started the game on the mound for the Indians and got a little roughed up in the third inning — one inning before Head Coach Howard Smack had planned to pull him.
“I wanted to give Nick four innings of work, but the wheels came off and they started to key on his pitches,” said Smack.
A hustle single started it off for the Golden Knights in the top of the third inning, and from there they drove in four runs, ending Kmetz’s evening.
Junior Eric Givans relieved Kmetz, working the forth, fifth and sixth innings to stop the bleeding.
“I just wanted to get ground balls and try to switch their momentum to ours,” said Givans. “We did what we had to do.”
From that point, the Indians launched an offensive melee on Sussex Central’s pitching.
Senior catcher D.J. Clark led the team, going 3-4 with three singles and three RBI’s. Clark should’ve played the number 3 on a lottery ticket that day, because he also threw out three of five base runners in the game.
“They guys said they heard that Central was looking to run on me, so I mentally prepared to throw them out,” said Clark.
Twice, Clark sprang to his feet so quickly that the ball snapped out of his hand instead of making the throw. Instead of sulking, he collected his thoughts and rebounded.
“We know that we are a good team that can win, so all that there is left is for us to go out there and win,” continued Clark.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, fate had its chance. Senior left-fielder Cody Jensen (1-3, double) reached base on an obstruction by the catcher. Clark blooped a single and senior designated hitter Brian Lynch drove in Jensen on a sac-fly to trim the Sussex Central lead to 4-1.
The floodgates opened from there.
Junior third baseman Colin Warner knocked in Clark with a RBI single (2-4, two RBI’s). Junior center fielder Matt Williamson (2-4, stolen base) reached on a fielder’s choice and then stole a base.
With two outs, senior first baseman Matt Lewis legged out his only hit of the game for a single. That kept the inning alive as senior right fielder Jerry Meiklejohn (1-3 and two RBI’s) belted in a two-RBI single to tie the game at four apiece.
In the fifth inning, Jensen punched a ball deep into centerfield. That kissed off the 370-foot fence, which set Clark up to drive Jensen in on the next at-bat, to take the lead 5-4. Warner finished the inning with an RBI single to further increase the margin to 6-4.
The Golden Knights did not sit idle in the sixth and were able to score two runs as well, to even the score once again. But the wheels came off once more — for Sussex Central.
After a leadoff Meiklejohn walk, senior shortstop Josh Dean slapped an opposite-field RBI double to regain the lead, 7-6. Jensen drew a walk, which brought Clark back to the plate.
Clark drew a full count after a swing at ball four, but the walk would have been costly to the Indians.
Instead, Clark whacked a two-RBI single on the next pitch to give the Indians a 9-6 lead.
“I felt really comfortable today. We were seeing some good pitches and we made some good swings to get on base,” said Clark.
Lynch put the icing on the cake when he launched a ball deep into the stratosphere over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth inning for a two-run homerun (6) and extended the Indians’ lead to 11-6.
Since freshman Trevor Abbott was unable to pitch the final inning, Smack called on his hard-throwing hurler, Warner, to seal the victory.
Warner blew the Golden Knights away, striking out two — including the final batter.