The Southern Henlopen Conference heated up for varsity baseball as Indian River nabbed two victories from conference opponents (Woodbridge and Delmar) on April 15 and 20.
“These games were big for us because we were all tied for the conference. But when we stepped out there, I knew we didn’t just come to play — we came to win,” said Head Coach Howard Smack.
The Indians, led by junior Colin Warner (2-1), pitched a complete-game 7-0 shutout versus Woodbridge, which included 12 strikeouts while allowing four hits and three walks.
Warner was able to baffle batters for almost half of the outs, but he had to rely on his defense to round out the game. “The defense really played well for us against Woodbridge. There was a diving play in centerfield that definitely saved three runs,” said Warner.
Senior Cody Jensen (3-1) had plenty of help from his teammates — both at the plate and in the field — as the Indians scalped Delmar 14-4 on April 15.
Jensen wasn’t able to hit the umpire’s pinpoint strike zone so he had to make do and was able to turn two critical plays to get out of the jam. Twice, with runners in scoring position, Jensen was able turn double plays to get out of the inning.
On the second occasion, Jensen had no choice but to catch the ball hit his way or end up in a coma. “The ball was hit really hard — so hard it stung my hand — and I had no time to react. It was pure instinct,” said Jensen.
“Cody wasn’t 100 percent today, but we played well as a team and that’s what we’ve been stressing all year,” said Smack.
Without the Indians’ plethora of active bats, victories would be few and far between. Indian River’s batters kicked it into high gear versus Delmar, amassing 11 hits and six walks to gain 14 runs and give Jensen a little breathing room.
Leadoff batter and senior shortstop Josh Dean went 3-5 versus Delmar, scoring two runs while hitting two singles and a triple for three RBI’s. Dean hit a two-run homerun in the victory versus Woodbridge that Smack boasted would’ve cleared Yankee stadium but the senior did need to tweak his swing to get where he is now.
“Last week, I think I went 0-8, so I came to the batting cages to make adjustments,” said Dean.
Jensen helped his cause in the Delmar game by batting 3-3 with two doubles, a bunt single and a walk. Jensen’s previous 2-4 mark versus Woodbridge gives him a two-game batting average of .714. Warner also plunked down a couple singles on a 2-3 effort against Delmar and recorded a triple versus Woodbridge.
Hits and homeruns make for great statistics, but there are plays that aren’t marked down on scorecards — including base running.
In the top of the second inning, senior first baseman Matt Lewis (0-2) made the play of the game when he distracted Delmar’s shortstop from making a routine scoop for a potential inning-ending double play on a Dean at-bat. The Dean triple scored the first two runs, which later extended to a 4-0 second-inning lead.
The Indians increased their season record to 5-2 — 5-1 in their conference — making them a front-runner for the Southern Division championship. They held their losses to games against defending state champion St. Mark’s and No. 6 Polytech (6-1), early in the season, but have been on a roll ever since.
The Indians have won four-out-of-five games since the first game in April and have established a confidence going down the stretch toward the division championship. The Indians were set to host Lake Forest on April 21 and Newark on April 23. The latter will be Indian River’s third game in five days.
“If we beat Lake Forest this week, then we all but have the conference wrapped up,” said Warner.