Arms, bats turn around Indians

Indian River’s varsity baseball team ended its three-game slide by picking up two of three games behind the strong arms of starting pitchers Colin Warner and Trevor Abbott, and a lineup of hot bats.

Coastal Point • JOHN DENNY: Luis Barrientos holds the tag against Archmere.Coastal Point • JOHN DENNY
Luis Barrientos holds the tag against Archmere.
Indian River had lost three consecutive conference games, to Laurel, Caesar Rodney and Cape Henlopen, but rebounded to pick up a 5-1 win over Sussex Tech on April 28. They most recently laid Delmar down 7-3 in a come-from-behind effort — extending the Indians’ record to 9-5 overall and 6-4 in the Henlopen Conference, which is a welcomed change.

“Wins like this are good for momentum and help with psyche a lot,” Indians Head Coach Howard Smack said. “We were down on ourselves (because of three-game losing streak) but those two wins sparked everyone and let them know that we can do it.”

“We were down a little bit but now we’re bringing our A-game,” Smack continued.

Pitcher Colin Warner hadn’t pitched since winning his third decision against Smyrna nearly a month ago, a move designed to let him fully recuperate from a bout with strep throat earlier in the season, according to Smack. But he came back full of fire.

Warner (4-0) pitched a complete game (4) and a three-hitter, and fanned 11 in the win over Sussex Tech.

Catcher Bryan Lynch put his team over the top with two RBI’s and a homerun.

Indian River had an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning against Archmere (6-5) on April 29 but wasn’t able to “string enough hits together,” according to Smack.

Indian River had 15 total base runners in the Archmere loss but went from the second to the seventh inning without stringing any hits together.

The Indians took a 3-2 lead on a past pitch to Luis Barrientos, which scored Zack Warner from third. But Archmere ended the inning on a 2-5 force-out by Josh Dean, following a RBI fielder’s choice.

Indian River tacked on two runs, to cut Archmere’s lead to 7-5. And despite another instance of aggressive base running by Dean (tagged out at home from first on a Barrientos RBI-double), the Indians represented the winning run at the plate with two outs.

Unfortunately, Indian River couldn’t keep the roll going against Archmere. But they did pick it up against Delmar (7-7, and 4-5 in the conference).

Indian River fell behind the Wildcats in the first three innings but tied it up at 3-3 in the top of the fourth on a one-out RBI single by Josh Dean to score freshman second baseman Cameron Travalini.

The Indians had the go-ahead run taken from them to conclude the fourth inning, when Nick Kmetz was ruled out for running the catcher over.

The catcher stepped up the third baseline about 15 feet — leaving very little, if any, room for Kmetz to score — and was ruled out because the ball was already in the air.

Abbott wasn’t getting his curveball over the plate early but started feeling it from the fourth inning on, when he struck out four of his nine batters in 6-2/3 innings. He allowed five hits and five walks but thwarted Delmar from the fourth inning on with a little help from junior right fielder Josh Sweetman.

Sweetman got on his giddy-up and reeled in a final out in the fourth inning that surely would’ve scored both runners (first and second).

Coach Smack couldn’t say enough.

“Gutsy,” he said. “Trevor didn’t have his best stuff. His curve wasn’t working but it started flowing and they started chasing ball. Sometimes I have to yell out to him, ‘Pitch and stop throwing,’ because he’ll try to place the ball. I’m so proud that he didn’t give up.”

It also didn’t hurt that Abbott received plenty of run support following a pivotal fourth inning.

Barrientos and Lynch led off the fifth with first-pitch singles, which set the stage for Warner, who launched another first-pitch fastball over the leftfield wall for a three-run homerun, giving the Indians a 6-3 lead.

Warner’s homerun came on the heels of an epiphany the night before, in which Warner called his shot.

“You know me, I don’t hit a lot of homeruns. But last night I told my dad that I was going to hit a homerun,” Warner said.

Warner may have thought he’d hit a homerun the night before, but upon stepping in the batter’s box only wanted a base hit.

“I was just trying to get a base hit, but he put it right down the middle and as soon as I hit it I knew it was gone,” he said.

Sweetman’s first varsity RBI-single put the icing on the cake and lifted Indian River to the 7-3 win.

Indian River left only a handful of base runners (5) on the pad, compared to Delmar’s 10. Delmar’s left 30 stranded base runners in their last spate of games that they’ve lost.

“We didn’t take advantage of having runners on and they did,” said Delmar Head Coach David Hearn. “When they got a runner on second they produced.”

Indian River went 4-9, compared to Delmar’s 3-9, with runners in scoring position.

The Indians will round out the regular season with four conference games out of five and start the last leg at Lake Forest on May 9.