The Lady Indians had only three days to celebrate their 9-8, extra-innings win over Sussex Tech on April 28 before getting back to the grind.
Indian River lost two games to Sussex Tech (regular and postseason) last year. But this was the first year since 2001, according to Lady Ravens Head Coach John Marvel, that the Lady Indians had beaten his team.
There are firsts for everything and, with that said, Delmar (11-2) beat the Lady Indians 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning for the team’s only loss of the season.
The Lady Indians (14-1) led Delmar 4-1 heading into the bottom half of the ninth inning but that changed quickly.
Lady Indian’s starting pitcher Kathryn Riley had scattered six hits over as many innings but the floodgates opened to end the game.
Riley allowed four hits, and two throwing errors allowed Delmar to tie the game. But with first base open, Indians Head Coach Mark Browne and his staff decided to walk the bases full to set up a force-out to any base.
The force never came and Riley’s second pitch nicked the batter (hand or bat) on a check-swing. The umpire ruled it a walk-off, hit batter with the bases juiced to end the game.
Had the batter check swung at a ball in the strike-zone or swung all the way through there could’ve been an alternate ending.
Due to illness, Delmar pitcher Brittany Ruark wasn’t scheduled to pitch, following a 15-strikeout win over Hodgson, but she gutted it out — literally (she vomited periodically during the game) to pull out the win (3).
“I wasn’t planning on pitching her but three or four innings because she (Ruark) was tired and not feeling well. But my starter Erin Tingle gave up seven walks in the first two innings and we just couldn’t have that,” said Delmar Head Coach Paul Anthony.
Anthony considered his team lucky to win the game like they did because, “Indian River is so well coached that they usually don’t miss many tricks.”
Lauren Whitzke hit a perfect 4-4 with two doubles, including a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We didn’t play well in any facet of the game,” added Browne.
Only a few days before, Indian River had shown their mettle against a hard-hitting Sussex Tech team and was indeed strong. They led through five innings — until the Lady Raven’s bats awoke in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Sussex Tech posted four runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh to tie the game at seven apiece, which sent it into extra innings.
Indian River kept their cool and tacked two insurance runs on balks that scored Shauna Jacobs. She delivered on a leadoff single and on a RBI bunt single by Jen Tyre, but the Lady Ravens held on.
Brittany Joseph tattooed a solo-homerun to deep left field on a 1-2 count to cut the lead to 9-8, but Riley fanned the remaining two batters, including Bethany Pavlik (who was intentionally walked twice). The first was a full count and the last caught Pavlik looking on only four pitches.
Beating Sussex Tech was a major step forward for the Lady Indians’ program and so may the Delmar loss be, according to Browne.
“In the grand scheme of things and in the long-run, it (the Delmar loss) may have been the best thing for us,” he said. “We don’t want to lose any games, but I do think this loss removes some of the unspoken, ‘undefeated’ pressure that was always there when we were 14-0. The big thing is that the kids have kept it (practice) fun all year and we want them to keep doing that. We don’t want them to focus too much on this game. After the game I heard Hayley Brennan say, ‘OK, we’re 0-0 now,’ and I like that.”
Indian River plays Lake Forest (May 9), Milford (May 11) and Laurel (May 13) before squaring off with Caravel on May 16.
Currently Delmar, Sussex Central and Indian River are in a three-way tie for first place in the Henlopen Conference and the division will hinge on the Lady Wildcats’ match-up with the defending champion Lady Golden Knights on May 9.
If Delmar beats Sussex Central along with the remainder of its conference games, then they’ll be conference champions, due to a tie-breaker with Indian River.
A Delmar loss to Sussex Central will all but ensure the Lady Indians win the conference, assuming they win the rest of their conference games.