Indian River’s boys of summer return with a lot of talent and are looking to turn up the heat in the southern Henlopen conference this season.
“We’re returning a lot of good baseball players this season — if we can just hit the ball consistently then we’ll be in good position,” said head coach Howard Smack.
“Our goal is to have a .400 batting average. We’re aiming for the moon, but if we hit the stars, then that’s fine by me,” said Smack.
In order to accomplish the task at hand, Smack will look to his squad of eager bats to come to work. “We are a fundamentally sound team that doesn’t make a lot of errors, but we need to improve everyday,” said Smack.
Among those who have improved, according to Smack, are starting pitchers senior Cody Jensen and junior Colin Warner. Jensen won second-team southern Henlopen conference honors, while Warner garnered a conference honorable mention last season.
Both players played Post 28 Legion baseball last year and were very successful. Warner pitched a no-hit shutout versus the DelVets to secure the 8-0 victory. Jensen played outfield/pitcher for the Sons of Legion Baseball team, and hit a home run in the state tournament.
“Jensen just transferred back from Kansas and has put on some weight, while Warner is a very good up-and-coming pitcher. He pitched very well against a good Laurel team last year, so we’re excited,” said Smack.
Having strong, capable arms is exciting for a team to have, but having a solid catcher is equally important for a team to compete. The catcher is the quarterback of the field, and this season the Indians return one of the best in senior D.J. Clark. Clark will provide a solid bat and a reliable target for Indian River’s rotation of young arms this season.
“D.J. is a great kid, very coachable, and will probably play at the next level,” said Smack. “Football has really helped him get in great shape, and it should help being that this will be his first year as a full-time starter.”
Clark was one of two Sons of Legion Coaches Award recipients and the team spirit award winner.
In addition to a couple of front-line starters and a highly regarded returning catcher, the Indians have a lot of depth at key positions.
“A lot of our players play a bunch of different positions, so that helps going into a season,” said Smack.
“Junior Brian Lynch and senior Matt Lewis will play multiple positions for us this year. Lynch comes to us from the j.v. squad, and will add a strong bat to our line-up,” said Smack.
Strong pitching keeps the other team from scoring, and strong hitting ensures a good possibility of winning games, but there’s a certain intangible that can put a team ahead of others — a love for the game.
“All these kids love playing baseball but a couple of them are great examples. Junior Josh Dean — who recovered from an arm injury last year — is one of our most competitive players. As a coach, you can’t ask for anything more from a kid,” said Smack.
Dean also won rookie of the year honors for the Sons of Legion baseball team, batting .351, with an on base percentage of .525 and slugging percentage of .509. Dean also won best glove in the outfield as well, making him one of the best all-around players at Indian River.
“Senior Jerry Meiklejohn and I have a special connection. He’s been with me for four years now and he gives you 100 percent every day. He comes to play his hardest every day,” said Smack.
Indian River also is fortunate to have senior D.J. Singleterry return to play ball for his final season.
“D.J. took a year off to better himself on the football field but he’s back,” said Smack. “You can see he’s a little rusty, but he’ll shake that off as we move through the season.”
The Indians look to be very competitive this season and apparently will leave nothing to chance.
“We won’t have a lot of power, so we will move runners and manufacture runs when we can to get the win,” said Smack.