The Indian River varsity softball team went one for two in the last week, defeating Seaford 7-4 on April 7 but losing a hard-fought game to rival Sussex Central, 3-1, on April 12.
Indian River and Sussex Central match up well on paper and are both in the hunt for the top spot in the state. But someone had to lose, and in such a tight game, mistakes are costly — very costly.
Tied 1-1 in the fifth inning, Indian River starting pitcher Kathryn Riley heaved a ball off the edge of the plate. Sussex Central senior Candace Shockley whacked the ball deep into left-centerfield as she motored around for the game-winning, two-run, inside-the-park homerun.
The game might have had a completely different outcome had Sussex Central Head Coach John Wells only tried to move the courtesy runner to second instead of going for the gusto.
“As fast as she is, a bunt can be a single,” said Wells.
“I decided to play small ball,” Wells continued. “But Shockley missed the first, so I called off the bunt and let her swing away. I’m glad she hit it like she did, because I’m not sure that one run would’ve been enough to win.”
IR’s Riley got roughed up in her first game back from a minor wrist injury. She gave up three runs on 10 hits while only fanning three. Riley kept the ball within reach for much of the game as she and her infielders accounted for 13 of the 21 outs. In the end, it came down to the big play. The loss knocks her down a peg, to a mere-mortal 6-2 on the season.
Offensively, the Indians had opportunities to score in the fourth and fifth innings, but left four base runners stranded.
“We just couldn’t get the ball to fall for us today, and when you play a team of this caliber you have to play perfect,” said Indian River Head Coach Mark Browne.
Sussex Central was flashing the leather as well. Right fielder Mindy Willing snagged not one, not two, but three diving catches that most certainly saved runs from scoring.
Knights pitcher Beth Hitchens (4-0) displayed the reflexes of a jungle cat on a couple occasions when the ball was torpedoed at her head. Freshman first baseman Jordan Warrington went 0-3, but was most certainly robbed after she wailed two Hitchens pitches right back at her for the out.
The Indians tagged Hitchens for eight hits, including three consecutive singles in the fourth inning. Junior centerfielder Shauna Jacobs led the team, batting 2-4, including two singles (one a bunt single). Senior shortstop Jessica Spencer batted 1-3 and scored the Lady Indians’ RBI of the game when she hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score junior Kayla Warrington.
In the bottom of the seventh and in the grips of defeat, the Indians had one last chance to pull out the win. But they came up just short. Freshman second baseman Abby Buchler legged out a close play at first base to lead off the seventh but was followed up with two quick outs.
Senior catcher Ravin Robinson came to the plate with the potential for a tying run but couldn’t connect on the Hitchens pitch. The Knights’ catcher bobbled the ball, and Robinson darted down the first-base line. But it wasn’t to be. She was gunned out to end the game.
“This was a great rivalry game, and we were fortunate to get the win. There is so much emotion in a game like this, because these girls know each other from other leagues and some of them even have family down there. So there is some added pressure,” said Wells.
The loss drops the Indians one spot on the chart to No. 6 in the state, and the Lady Indians will look for revenge in coming games against Woodbridge, Delmar and Lake Forest in a fight for their division.
Kayla Warrington recorded her third victory of the season April 7 versus Seaford. That maintained her unbeaten record (3-0) for this season. Freshman Brittany Steele notched the save, her second of the season.