Powell piles up hits, recognition

With so many great players on Indian River’s softball team over the years, it’s understandable how a player can get lost in the shuffle. But, finally, catcher Sara Powell is getting the credit she deserves.

She’s spent her first two varsity seasons at each of the Lady Indians’ corner infielder positions, earning honorable-mention credits as a third baseman last season. But the graduation of two-time All-State catcher Ravin Robinson left a gaping hole at a critical position — a position Powell had played before and where she would make her mark as a senior.

“She’s done a phenomenal job,” gushed head coach Mark Browne. “She’s received tons of raves from coaches all over the state and now she’s considered one of the best catchers in the state.”

She blasted the doors wide open and made people throughout Delaware recognize her talent with two homeruns, a triple and seven-RBI performance in a 16-3 season-opening win over St. Mark’s.

Anyone who doubted her ability or thought the St. Mark’s game was a fluke, thought otherwise very soon after.

She blasted a game-winning, two-run homerun following the season opener, to give her team a 6-4 come-from-behind win over Seaford. She then delivered a game-winning, fifth-inning single after drawing an intentional walk in her second at-bat against last year’s state champion Sussex Central, giving the Lady Indians a red-hot 3-0 start.

“That opened [conference coaches’] eyes right then,” Browne said. “Teams started to pitch around her, and she still was able to produce.”

Powell concluded the regular season with stellar statistics: a .475 batting average, 25 RBI’s, four homeruns (including a grand slam), five triples, two doubles and 17 base hits. She drew 13 walks, had an on-base percentage of .569, only struck out twice and amassed a Barry Bonds-like slugging percentage of .881.

Players who put up such impressive numbers deserve any and all post-season accolades that come their way. And it doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by a number of fellow first-team All-Conference players and a supportive coaching staff.

“I’ve been nervous a couple times. But when I see the coaches’ smiles, I feel no pressure,” Powell said. “It also helps to know that I have people behind me that can get the job done, so there is nothing to worry about.”

Six Lady Indians players yielded batting averages of .400 or better this season. And the two batters ahead of Powell in the lineup, leadoff batter Kathryn Riley and Shauna Jacobs, have made it their business to get on base — often leaving her with two-on, no-out situations.

Riley tallied 24 hits and 14 walks, scored 22 runs and had an on-base percentage of .532, while Jacobs had 27 hits — 23 of which were singles — scored 20 runs and led the team with nine sacrifice flies.

Even if Powell didn’t reach base — no worries, someone behind her most likely would.

Cleanup batter Kayla Warrington also had a .881 slugging percentage and led the team with six homeruns, including a grand slam in their 11-3 win over Laurel on May 17 and 26 RBIs.

Jordan Warrington notched 28 hits, 19 RBIs and seven doubles, and had a nice slugging percentage as well (.635).

Brittany Steele earned honorable mention as a utility player and was fourth on the team with 17 RBIs.

Offensively, the Lady Indians are as good as any team in the state. But what really sets them, and Powell, apart is their defense. It’s great when a team can score 10 runs a game, but if you can’t stop the other team from scoring more runs, what’s the point? So Browne and his staff drill their team in every possible situation so that they’re prepared for anything.

“I’ve been calling pitches for years,” said assistant coach Eldridge Cress. “But in team scrimmages I let the catcher make the calls, and she’s almost to the point where she can do it (in games) without me.”

“The catcher and pitcher have the freedom to override a call. So we sort of have an open policy,” Cress continued. “We want them to learn how to play the game by themselves because it’s good preparation for college.”

Powell played catcher in travel ball, caught pitchers for warm-ups or whatever situation she was needed, so there was very little transition for her — which is important because Cress likened the position to the “quarterback” and the “eyes and ears of the field” — something for which she has a natural ability.

“She picked it up very well,” Cress said, speaking of her layoff from the position. “She has a good overall knowledge of the position and has the ability to know how to pitch certain hitters.”

According to Browne, Powell’s ability will enable her to play a number of positions in college and she is currently being looked at by a number of Division I and II programs.

“I knew it all along that she had this ability,” Browne said. “She’s been a hidden gem for us and she did it all on her own. She really has good college ability, too, and I think that she can excel at the Division I level.”

In addition to having college-caliber talent and being a great all-around player, she has the intangibles to make her team better.

“Sara’s kind of the jokester of the team and she keeps us from not taking it too seriously, but serious enough,” Riley said. “She can pick anybody up on the team and definitely has played a huge role on our team.”

“I know when I’m down she knows it and she usually says something even if it isn’t about the game,” Riley said. “She’s definitely my shoulder to lean on.”