Clash of the titans:

Indian River’s 17-2 softball team hosted Caravel (16-2) on May 15 in a clash of the titans and what could very well be a preview for the state championship. But with so much talent on the field somebody still had to lose. Caravel defeated Indian River 7-1, but the game was much closer than the score indicated.
Coastal Point • Ruslana Lambert: Brittney Steele slaps an RBI-single down the third-base line to cut the Caravel lead to 2-1. Caravel went on to win 7-1.Coastal Point • Ruslana Lambert:
Brittney Steele slaps an RBI-single down the third-base line to cut the Caravel lead to 2-1. Caravel went on to win 7-1.

The game remained scoreless through three innings, despite Caravel stranding six runners on base — four of whom were in scoring position, including a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the top of the first inning.

Indian River starting pitcher Kathryn Riley (16-2) allowed two leadoff base runners on a single and a hit batter. But Alishya Paige moved the runners on a ground-ball force-out to first. She then loaded the bases on one of her two intentional walks (Caravel drew only one earned walk) to cleanup batter Sarah Reeves, only to get out of the game with one of her five strikeouts. She ended the inning as Kathleen Smith tried to steal home, thinking Riley was asleep at the wheel.

Riley quickly tossed it home to catcher Sara Powell for the tag at the plate.

Caravel finally scored on a one-out, two-run homerun by second baseman Brittney James before Indian River’s defense stonewalled their next two playable balls.

To that point Indian River had only two base runners (a Powell walk and a Brittney Steele single) but first baseman Jordan Warrington led off with a standup double in the fifth inning. Then Steele slapped a RBI single down the third baseline to cut the lead to 2-1.

Steele reached second base on the throw home but she was called out on an appeal by the home plate umpire for improperly tagging up following an Abi Buchler fly-pop to centerfield, for the 8-4 double play.

Back in the field to start the seventh inning at the bottom of the batting order, Riley forced seven-hitter Karlee Reffuge to ground out for the 1-3 force-out but Indian River would get no closer, because Caravel tacked on five more runs, following an error by freshman shortstop Lindsay McCabe.

Riley walked Smith (the No. 1 batter) then struck out left fielder Alex Winstead before Caravel teed off.

Indian River head coach Mark Browne pulled Riley after 6-2/3 innings, in favor of Steele, who ended the inning on a first-pitch groundout for a 1-3 force-out with runners on the corners. Riley had scattered seven hits over six innings before giving up three more hits and two walks (one intentional) in the seventh inning.

Indian River’s bottom three batters had been the most productive to that point but were unable to generate any offense to rally their cause.

“We look at this like a 2-1 game,” Caravel head coach Tim Wampler said. “We put some pressure on them early but you have to give them credit because they battled back. I’ll tell you what — I wouldn’t mind seeing them (or Sussex Tech or Sussex Central) in the championship. But I’d rather not see them during the tournament.”

Indian River may rank No. 2 by the media but to beat the No. 1 team, teams can’t make any mistakes, according to Browne.

“To beat Caravel you almost have to play perfect and to a certain degree — we did,” he said. “We just missed a couple balls by a half an inch here or there. And if we’d hit those, things could’ve been very different.”

All in all, Browne was pleased with his team’s play but he reiterated that no one player was to blame for the loss.

“If someone makes a mistake, we all made the mistake,” he explained. “There’s no pressure on any one player. We win together and we lose together. We just have to get back to practice and hope we do a little better in the tournament.”

The state tournament seeding will be decided Friday evening and play will start on May 24.

Indian River should host that first game. The remainder will be played at the Sports At The Beach Complex in Georgetown.