Indian River’s softball team erased a 2-0 deficit against Seaford in the quarterfinals to win 5-2. But pulling off two straight come-from-behind games – the second against defending state champions the Sussex Central Lady Knights, no less – proved to be too tall a task.
The Lady Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead – a lead they would never relinquish, despite Indian River’s best counter on a two-RBI single by catcher Sara Powell in the bottom of the third.
Sussex Central was able to get two base runners on with no outs to start the third and scored their first run on an error by Jordan Warrington.
Warrington made scoop after scoop all game long but didn’t look the ball in for the force out. So with no outs and runners at second and third, Indians head coach Mark Browne intentionall walked Shannette White to load the bases.
Clean-up batter Amanda Cordrey smashed a 0-1 pitch to deep left field for a two-RBI single, giving her team a 3-0 lead.
Cordrey added her third RBI in the top of the fifth on a single, to score White. And the Lady Knights added their fifth and final run on a RBI double.
Eight hits, several of which hit very hard, signaled the end of starting pitcher Kathryn Riley’s day on the mound, in favor of relief pitcher Brittney Steele, who worked 3-1/3 scoreless innings.
Steele struck out four and two, back-to-back (No. 2 and No. 3 batters) in the sixth inning with runners in scoring position, but Indian River would come no closer.
“My heart goes out to them,” Cordrey said of the Lady Indians seniors. “There were 40 girls on the field that wanted to win. But the only thing that makes me feel better is that we don’t have to feel that pain,” she added.
“When you play Indian River in the semifinals – it’s all on the line. It doesn’t matter what position or where you are in the game you have to show up,” Cordrey continued. “And today we did our job. When you’re in the batter’s box, you need to get a hit. And we did that today.”
Indian River beat Sussex Central during the regular season, 2-1, in large part because the Lady Indians hit and the Lady Knights didn’t. Indian River out-hit the Lady Knights 7:1 in the regular season, but were out-hit 9:3 in the semifinal game.
Lady Knight starting pitcher Brandy Jester had one less strikeout than in the previous outing (5:6) but that didn’t worry Cordrey.
“If you judged her on her worst performance, I’d still say she’s one of the best in the state,” Cordrey said of Jester. “When the pressure’s on – she’s the one I want on the mound. She was pumping tonight, and she’ll be the one who’ll get us there,” she concluded, referencing a future championship.
“It’s tough to beat a team twice – not that’s an excuse,” Browne said. “But we battled back, and if we could’ve made a pitch here or there or found a hole or two, who knows? Maybe it would’ve been a different game.”
“I’m just glad it was a good game,” Browne continued. “They’ve gone beyond my expectations this season. If you’d told me on March 2 that we’d be conference champions at 20-2 with everyone on the honor roll, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
“I’m so proud of the girls on the field and in the classroom, and that will be the No. 1 thing,” he continued, referring to the annual sports banquet.
“We shot for the moon and almost got there,” he said.
In Saturday’s action, Indian River tied Seaford 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth on a Steele RBI-single and added two more runs on throwing errors. Riley delivered the fifth and final run on a RBI-single of her own.
Riley struck out 11, including the side in the sixth inning while scattering five hits in a complete-game effort.
“I had no expectations for this game,” Lady Knights head coach John Wells said. “They were the 2006 conference champions and they are an excellent ball team. We knew this game would be a war.”