What small ball couldn’t accomplish against Seaford on Thursday, April 7 worked just fine when the Indian River varsity baseball team traveled to rival Sussex Central on Tuesday, April 12. They defeated the Knights for the first time in five years, 4-1.
“We weren’t expecting any walk in the park. We knew we were going to have to earn every run. Central has had a quality program for years, and these guys bleed blue and gold,” said Head Coach Howard Smack.
The Indians were forced to play catch-up from the beginning, after Justin Collins tattooed a solo homerun off of senior Cody Jensen in the bottom of the first inning. Jensen struck out six Central batters while walking three on 101 pitches. He allowed a smattering of hits — just three — in six shutout innings to get the complete game victory and improve his record to 2-1 for the season.
With the game almost in hand, the Knights weren’t going away quietly. They were looking to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning with a runner at third base and a ballplayer nervously approaching the batter’s box.
Though nervous himself, Jensen refused to get rattled and took the bull by the horns to strikeout the final batter and preserve the victory.
“My arm was getting tired, and I was a bit nervous with the man on third, but I knew my teammates had my back. I was pitching on pure adrenaline at that point. I knew I had to get that last out,” said Jensen.
Jensen helped his cause on the mound by going 2-3 with a RBI double against opposing pitcher Mike Marvel. Jensen’s pitching counterpart — junior Colin Warner — chipped in, hitting two singles on four at-bats and scoring a run. Catcher senior D.J Clark went 2-4, which included two singles for one RBI.
“This was a total team effort. Everyone played and hustled, and nobody gave up. We were able to get crucial hits to get the win,” said Smack.
The little things that worked versus Sussex Central just didn’t happen a few days prior, when Indian River fell 2-0 to Seaford.
“A couple of our hits in that game couldn’t reach the open spots. If the wind was blowing in like it was here (at Central) then we would’ve won that game too,” said Smack.
The Indians improved their record to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the ever-important Henlopen conference, positioning the team in a four-way tie for the lead in the conference, with Woodbridge, Lake Forest and Seaford.
Having already fallen to Seaford this season and with no visible rematch in sight, the Indians will need to play at a high level in the coming four-game stretch over seven days. All four opponents (Woodbridge, Lake Forest, Delmar and Laurel) are conference games, and the first three teams have a combined record of 11-3.