Indian River softball gets back in action

Following tryouts in chilly weather, the Indian River High School softball team is shaping up to be a methodical, tight-knit group of girls. Head coach Mark Browne is pleased with his lineup as 10 returning players from last year’s 14-4 team make their way back to the field.

Coastal Point photos • Ruslana Lambert: One of the players grabs a ground ball during practice.Coastal Point photos • Ruslana Lambert
Above, one of the players grabs a ground ball during practice.

“We’re excited about the team that we have,” said Browne. “I think these girls mesh well together right now, and that’s important.”

Browne and the team turn to four senior captains to assume direction and control this year. Second-baseman Abi Buchler, catcher Hayley Brennan, first-baseman Jordan Warrington and pitcher Brittney Steele headline the roster for their last year at Indian River.

“Our four senior captains can easily lead us from one drill to the next without having to take a lot of time to explain what to do,” said Browne. “They all have great leadership qualities that should work well this year on the team.”

Shortstop Heather Hitchens returns to the lineup for the Lady Indians, joined by the team’s lone freshman, Carley Walter. Following last week’s tryouts, the Indians settled on their solid group of 13 athletes.

Although most of the girls know where they feel most comfortable around the diamond, Browne stated that the outfield and the mound have the most contention for spots.

“We have five pitchers now that are all still competing,” he said. “We may use any one of them in a ball game. As of right now, we don’t have a definite No. 1. We may pitch by committee for the time being.”

Steele forfeited her position as pitcher in the past, due to a stress fracture. And Browne will be keeping his eyes sharp through upcoming scrimmages to see where the team fits best.

“The big thing is seeing who will step up as our pitching leader,” he said. “We had 36 kids come out for tryouts, and nobody quit. We had to cut it down to 30, with 13 on varsity and 17 on JV, and I’m happy with the group we have to work with.”

The mound isn’t the only position still not locked in.

“I’m still looking at the outfield,” he noted. “It probably has the most competition.”
Coastal Point photos • Ruslana Lambert: Left, Haley Brennan practices bunting recently to prepare for IR’s 2008 season.Coastal Point photos • Ruslana Lambert
Haley Brennan practices bunting recently to prepare for IR’s 2008 season.

Browne said he is pleased with the positive attitudes and drive he sees in the team.

“The talent and willingness to work hard are there,” he said, “so that’s nice to have. It’s a big plus to have so many girls coming back. They work off of each other well, and they’re used to the work ethic we have here at the Indian River program.”

The Lady Indians are hoping to kick-start their season opener the same way they did last year, when they mowed over St. Mark’s 21-1 and Seaford 8-1 in the first two games of the season.

The girls were set to take to the field in a scrimmage at Easton on Thursday, March 13, at 4 p.m. (after Coastal Point press deadline). Then they will host Mardela on Tuesday, March 18, at home, and play Milford at the Pyle Center on Thursday, March 20, for two more scrimmages before the season starts. Both of those games are also at 4 p.m.

On Tuesday, March 25, the Lady Indians will play their opener at home against Nandua at 1 p.m. They pulled off a strong 13-5 win against Nandua midway through last year’s season.

Browne’s team has plenty to focus on following last year’s impressive performance in the Henlopen South conference, and he knows exactly what he wants to perfect.

“I think our strength will be hitting and scoring runs,” he said. “We want to do all the little things better than we’ve ever done them before. That’s our goal. With 10 returning players, the big thing is to not get too happy and comfortable with where we are. We want to work hard to keep getting better with each day.”