IRHS baseball ends season in second round of states

The 2008 Indian River High School baseball season came to a disheartening end after they fell two runs shy in the second game of the Delaware state tournament, to third-ranked Dickinson (21-1) at Wesley College on Tuesday.

Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton: Jake Balasus takes a swing against Dickinson during Tuesday’s game at Wesley College. The Indians slipped against the Rams, 6-8, in the state quarterfinal match-up.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Jake Balasus takes a swing against Dickinson during Tuesday’s game at Wesley College. The Indians slipped against the Rams, 6-8, in the state quarterfinal match-up.

The Indians put up a battle as they fought back from an 8-3 deficit to earn three more runs in the fifth, in a game that came down to the wire. With a full count, two outs and loaded bases in the last inning, Indian River had a chance to repeat the come-from-behind win that earned them the bid to the second round, triumphing over Milford just days before. But Dickinson pitcher Matt Klaczkiewcz kept the composure the Rams needed to make it to the semifinals.

The Indians were off to a strong start, earning three runs in the opening inning of the game, including two from catcher Bo Wilkinson. But Dickinson answered back when three consecutive walks paved the way for a Steve Miller grand slam that put the Rams in the lead. They tallied three more runs in the first and another in the second before the Indians found their footing again.

Scoreless innings ensued, with strong pitching from Indians sophomore Corey Showalter, who struck out four and allowed only one hit. The Indians refused to go down easy, as they brought the runs within two, courtesy of Luis Barrientos, Luke Wingate and Matt McDowell in the top of the fifth. However, they couldn’t bring in the runs needed to face Middletown in the semis.

“It was a real tough one,” said Indian River head coach Howard Smack. “You take away that first inning, and we’d win the ballgame.”

He said he was pleased with his team’s performance for the day, however, and for the season.

“I saw an outstanding performance from Corey today,” he said. “He likes big games anyway, and he came in to do what we asked of him. He shut them down and closed the door. All in all, I think we had a great season. We didn’t quit. We went down fighting to the last strike.”

IR pitcher Trevor Abbott was also impressed with his team’s showing in the quarterfinals.

“Overall,” he said, “it might have been our best game all year, with the exception of the first inning. We lost trying to win. There’s nothing you can do. We had some hits in there. I give [Dickinson] credit. They’ve got five Division 1 players going off to schools next year. They’re a strong team, and probably the best in the state.”

Dickinson head coach John Nelson Jr. said he was also pleased with the performance his squad brought to the game.

“We knew we just had to keep working,” he said. “I basically told our guys, ‘If we take care of our game and play sound baseball, we’ll come out on top. Indian River, and any team, for that matter, come tournament time, is going to play strong. You can’t afford any let-downs.’”

“This was a great high-school game,” he continued. “They jumped on us and got those three, and we were fortunate to get some runs of our own. [Steve] Miller came up big, got one up in the zone and went with it.

“Indian River has tremendous heart,” he added. “Right there at the end, it was anybody’s ballgame. Matt [Klaczkiewcz] did a great job closing it after loading the bases. He’s done it all year for us.”

The Indians will lose seven seniors to graduation this year, including senior captains Sean Lewis, Nicholas Kmetz, Abbott and Barrientos.

“When we first started out,” said Smack, reflecting on the year, “I didn’t think we’d be hitting the ball the way we could here at the end of the year. Overall, it was a promising season, considering I have some people coming back in key positions. We’ll have to look to someone coming back to take Trevor Abbott’s place, but that’ll be a tough spot to fill. He’s been a great athlete and a great asset for us. Everyone’s played really hard this year.”