The No. 6 Indian River varsity softball team jumped back on the right track — winning games against Caesar Rodney and Laurel this week after losing two straight to Sussex Tech and Smyrna in the previous week.
The wins improved the Lady Indians record to 14-4, with an outside shot to win the conference — but that possibility is too convoluted to even think about.
The Lady Indians bested Caesar Rodney 5-1 on May 12 and traveled to Laurel on May 14, bringing home a landslide 13-3 victory in seven innings.
Mastermind Head Coach Mark Browne really threw Laurel for a curve when he started freshman Brittney Steele.
Steele struggled through three innings, allowing three runs on four hits, and was replaced by the hard-throwing junior Kathryn Riley.
It appeared that Riley was replacing an ineffective starter in the bottom of the third inning, but what actually happened was a little change of pace.
Perhaps, “little” isn’t the right word to describe the power that Riley pitched with after entering the game. She smoked nine batters for strikeouts on screaming fastballs.
Laurel couldn’t adjust to the margin of pitching speed between Steele and Riley.
“Kathryn was that much more effective after Brittney made it through the lineup once,” said Browne.
Laurel’s hitters had had a chance to line up Steele’s pitches and were anticipating teeing off on them. But when Browne made the switch, they never caught up.
Riley worked the final four innings and only gave up two hits, for no runs, to secure the victory (11-5).
Riley and Steele had plenty of run support and scored 18 runs in the two victories, in contrast to the four-run output in their most recent losses.
It was hard for Laurel’s hurlers to pitch around the Lady Indians, because everyone was hitting the ball.
Down three runs early in the game, the Lady Indians stayed patient. And in the top of the fourth inning — they exploded.
They batted around the order and then some. They had the bases loaded twice and totaled eight RBI’s on nine hits, giving Riley some much-needed breathing room.
The Lady Indians team batting average was well over .500 for the game and they forced Laurel’s starter out in the top of the fifth inning, in favor of sophomore Brittney Joseph.
Seven of Indian River’s nine starters had at least two hits in the game. Junior Shauna Jacobs went 2-4, with two doubles and three RBI’s. Freshman first baseman Jordan Warrington went 2-3 with a single, double and walk, and drove in two RBI’s.
All the team members contributed, but sophomore utility player Hilary Hawkins ignited the team with hot play off the bench.
“Hilary is a great kid who has worked hard these past two years and had earned a chance to play. I couldn’t be more pleased by the way she played,” said Browne. “She made the most of her opportunities.”
Hawkins went 2-3 with two singles, two stolen bases, a run and a sacrifice fly. She was forced to leave the game when Laurel’s covering second baseman leveled her as she legged out an infield groundball.
The Lady Indians rebounded at a critical juncture, with only one regular-season game remaining. They were set to test their metal against top-ranked Caravel on May 18 and see whether or not they have what it takes to compete with the best.
“Every team has their lapses. Hopefully, we’re through ours,” said Browne.