The Indian River and Sussex Central High School baseball teams have an intense rivalry that goes back years, even decades. Where does the rivalry start? At the middle school level.
And on May 9, the Indians-to-be of Selbyville Middle School looked to avenge their only loss of the season, which happened to be against Sussex Central Middle School and its future SCHS baseball players.
Selbyville finished their regular season on a high note, defeating Sussex Central 4-3.
Sussex Central just squeaked past Selbyville in the third week of the season by a score of 9-8, which actually seemed to help their team improve.
“When we lost to Central, it was like all the weight went off of our shoulders,” said Head Coach Jesse Steele. “We didn’t have to worry about the winning streak, and the kids could just relax and hit the ball and score runs.”
“Besides, everybody loses sometimes. That’s just the game. We try to teach the kids about life-long lessons and hope they can carry it with them to the high school and beyond,” continued Steele.
The four runs scored in the season-ender put Selbyville over the 200-run mark for the year.
In the season finale, there wasn’t much hitting by either team. Central posted six hits, while Selbyville could only muster three hits over seven innings.
“We didn’t have many hits, but we capitalized on their mistakes, played good defense and pitched well,” said Steele.
Sussex Central made more than their fair share of mistakes — they walked 11 batters and scored two runs on past pitches.
Selbyville starting pitcher Zac Kmetz started out on the wrong foot — giving up a monster two-run moon-shot homerun over the left-field wall. Kmetz regained his composure to work four shutout innings, which included 1-2-3 third and fourth innings before shortstop Luis Barrientos relieved him in the fifth inning.
“I probably should’ve pulled Zac a little earlier but he was pitching so well,” said Steele. “It’s a big game and it was a lot of pressure but he handled it well.”
Kmetz walked two runners before being relieved, which created a precarious situation for Barrientos.
The stage was set for a come-from-behind victory, but Central couldn’t handle Barrientos’ stuff. Barrientos fanned five, walked one and allowed one run on two hits in three innings of work, to gain the win (3-0).
“Luis has a good curve and fastball. He actually throws a Mariano Rivera cut-fastball,” said Steele. “He doesn’t throw it often, but when he does it has great movement and natural flow.”
Barrientos displayed arm strength and control in the later stages of the game but also was flashing the leather out in the field. He made two incredible stops deep in the hole to save extra bases.
“Luis is an extremely athletic kid who has a great future both in athletics and academics,” said Steele. “He’s a really intelligent kid.”
The rest of the Selbyville squad did their part to help their two pitchers score some runs.
First baseman Alexis Zamora went 2-3 with two runs and a walk. Third baseman Jake Buchler must have 20/20 vision because he didn’t swing at a bad pitch all game. He went 0-1 but drew three walks.
Despite the lack of impressive numbers, Steele emphasized that the key to the game was pitching.
“Good pitching beats good hitting any day,” said Steele.