Four games in six days isn’t a tough task for the newly No. 10 ranked Indian River varsity baseball team. The team pulled together to round out a five-game win streak, beating Cape Henlopen 5-4 in a dramatic seventh inning comeback.
“This team is so different from past years,” said Head Coach Howard Smack. “These guys don’t care who gets the credit. They like to joke around and to be around each other, where in the past there was a lot of bickering and jealously. But our guys have worked hard and they saw what can happen when you stick together.”
Junior hurler Colin Warner (5-1) had to dig deep on the mound and at the plate to get the win. With Warner toeing the rubber for the Indians, his outfielders get a good rest. He maintains an average of 10 strikeouts per game, but it was his two-run homerun in top of the seventh (to give Indian River a 5-4 lead) that stole the show.
Senior shortstop Josh Dean started off the seventh inning like any good leadoff hitter — by getting on base. Dean’s single was followed up by a patient Cody Jensen, who drew a walk with no outs.
Two men on, one out, and Brian Lynch delivered on a two-RBI single to cut the lead to one run. That set the stage for Warner’s game winning two-run homerun.
Warner fanned nine versus Cape Henlopen but none were more important than the final two in the seventh inning. Smack had to make a decision on whether or not to pull his hard-throwing ace in the seventh due to rapidly rising pitch count but decided to allow Warner to pitch his way out.
Two outs, bottom of the seventh: Warner had a 2-2 count working in his favor and he looped a curveball over the plate for the game-winning strikeout.
Senior catcher D.J. Clark emphatically slammed the ball and glove on the ground in jubilation at the conclusion of the game and the team looked as if they had won the World Series.
The win over Cape Henlopen improves the Indians’ record to 11-3 overall and 9-1 in the conference.
In addition to defeating their local rival, Indian River poured on the offensive firepower in two games against Laurel and one against non-conference Washington High School (Princess Anne).
Jensen worked quickly to get the 13-3 victory over Laurel on April 28. He struck out seven batters on only 77 pitches, while allowing only two walks and three earned runs on four hits.
Dean went 2-2, including his team-leading fifth homerun. (Dean had six homeruns to his credit as of May 4). Junior second baseman Thomas Veith also went 2-2, including a two-RBI homerun. Clark got his bat going with a 2-3 effort, including an RBI.
The Indians smoked out the Bulldogs by the top of the fifth, following Dean’s three-run homerun.
Two days later, the Indians hosted Laurel and Washington at the Wave Classic tournament. Laurel was given an automatic bid into the final because Stephen Decatur dropped out with a scheduling problem.
Junior pitcher Eric Givans (1-1) notched his first victory of the season, defeating Washington 11-1 after getting roughed up against Newark last week.
Givans struck out 10 batters by getting ahead in the count, winging each first pitch in there for strikes and relying on his fastball.
“It really helps when you can get the first pitch to fall for a strike. That built my confidence and I knew that just needed a couple runs to win,” said Givans.
Senior right fielder Jerry Meiklejohn continued his hot hitting streak by going 3-3 with a double and a RBI. Meiklejohn finished the tournament by going 4-7 and edging out quite a few hot Indian hitters to win MVP honors for the tournament.
Against Laurel, junior center fielder Matt Williamson went 2-3 with a double, Colin Warner went 2-4 with an RBI and a run, and Dean went 2-4 with a RBI and homerun.
Williamson’s play has stepped up in the past three games, after Smack ignited a fire under him.
“Coach Smack said there’s always someone who can come in there in play. I don’t think he was talking directly to me, but he motivated me to play better,” said Williamson.
The center fielder went 1-2 with two walks and a run in the win over Cape Henlopen.
Smack pitched freshman Nick Kmetz in the 7-2 victory over Laurel in the Wave Classic.
Kmetz’s (1-0) first varsity win was a sweet one, being that he is originally from Laurel. He chose to come to Indian River this past summer and it seems to be a big boost to the team.
“Any win is good, but this one keeps our streak going,” said Kmetz.
He was relieved in the sixth inning by fellow freshman Trevor Abbott, who got his first save on varsity.
In two innings, Abbott struck out four after allowing two walks early in the sixth inning.
“I can hear his wheels turning,” said Smack of Abbott.
But the wheels stopped for his opponents and so did the game as Abbott shut down the remainder of the Laurel lineup.
The Indians have shown they can not only score bushels of runs but can win the close must-have games by defeating a great baseball school like Cape Henlopen. Indian River has three more conference games before they head to Caravel to see just how good they really are.