Indian River’s head baseball coach Howard Smack looked like a kid on Christmas morning following the team’s 5-2 win over No.3-ranked Caravel on May 15. He couldn’t contain his smile. But why should he? His team had won their last six games and recently won the Southern Division title, heading into its regular-season finale against Sussex Central on May 17.
“We’re starting to play good ball at the right time,” Smack said with a smile. “We’re where we want to be with the upper-echelon programs.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Trevor Abbott (6-1) worked a complete game, struck out eight, scattered six hits, walked one and only allowed one earned run, to mark his third win against upstate teams.
Abbott notched wins against St. Marks and Newark earlier this season.
“All my pitches were working and I feel that on any day I can beat any team,” Abbott said.
It also didn’t hurt that his teammates capitalized on a Caravel errors and their own timely hitting to give him some breathing room.
The Indians scored two runs on a bases-loaded situation when shortstop Josh Dean grounded into a 1-2 force-out but the catcher’s throw to turn the 1-2-3 double play went well over the first baseman’s head into right field, scoring two runners.
Indian River stacked on two more runs in the fifth inning, including a RBI-single by Colin Warner.
Caravel mounted a minor rally with two runs in the top of the sixth inning on two singles and a double by Adam Eby.
Eby finished the day 1-3 with a RBI-double, and pitcher Rick Schuler (5-1) added the other run on a RBI-single. But they would get no closer.
Freshman second baseman Cameron Travalini scored two runs for the Indians on 1-2 hitting and also drew one of their four team walks in a game where base runners were valuable.
Indian River only had one more base runner than Caravel (9:8) so the game proved that every ball thrown can make or break a team.
“They’re a decent team. And they came out and played their game, and we didn’t play ours,” said Caravel player Steve Freinberg. “They came ready to play and we came out flat.”
“Sometimes you’ve got to go out and take it,” Smack said. “Nobody is going to give us anything because we’re the defending Henlopen champs.”
Smack’s mantra rang true in the team’s 10-0 mercy-rule victory over Laurel on May 13. Indian River lost its previous game 4-3 to the Bulldogs. Smack and his players were on a mission to prove themselves.
“We wanted to show Laurel that we’re the better team and that the first game was a fluke,” he said. “We’re a better ball club than they think we are. So we pitched the same pitchers and went out and won.”
Mike Casale (2-2) earned the win behind 12 hits and eight walks. Seven Indian River players batted in a run — an effort that was capped by an RBI swinging bunt by pinch hitter Josh Sweetman to score Mark Ahfeldt. Ahfeldt reached base on his own pinch hit for a RBI double.
Indian River’s (14-5) doggedness again was evident in a 6-2 win over Milford in which starting pitcher Colin Warner (6-0) tossed a complete game without striking out one batter.