A perfect 13-0.
Indian River’s softball team tossed another log on the fire by beating Cape Henlopen in its second come-from-behind victory of the season on April 25 and easily downing out-of-town travelers Poland and Wantagh High School in Indian River’s first fast-pitch tournament over the Easter holiday.
Softball fans from all over the state watch each game or check the standings after every contest with the interest suited to an intense Jenga game.
Will they keep winning? Can they keep winning? Will the bottom fall out from beneath them?
The answer is no. Well, maybe, no.
Indian River can win the next game, the rest of its games and even the state championship for a number of reasons, but that’s primarily because Head Coach Mark Browne and his staff have such a potent lineup.
Browne loaded the top of his lineup with veteran, tried-and-true players, such Kathryn Riley, Shauna Jacobs, Sara Powell, Kayla Warrington and Jen Tyre.
Against Poland, Riley went 2-2 and reached base each at-bat, Jacobs went 2-3 with two RBIs; Powell went 3-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Warrington went 1-2 with a double and jacked a solo homerun against Wantagh, and Tyre led the team with four RBIs on 3-4 hitting.
Even if opposing pitchers can avoid that minefield, they’re not out of the woods yet. Browne still has a handful of patient hitters that can get the job done.
While the top half of the lineup are seniors, the back end consists of sophomores and freshmen. And though the younger players don’t yet have their driver’s licenses, each of them are in the driver’s seat when it comes to softball.
Sophomore second-baseman Abi Buchler safely hit 3-3 and scored two runs against the Lady Vikings, while Hayley Brennan and Jordan Warrington both got “big, big hits, with two strikes,” according to Browne in that game; and pitcher Brittney Steele went 2-3 for three RBIs and a double in their 11-8 win over Ohio’s Poland High School.
Brennan ended its game against Wantagh with a two-run walk-off homerun, giving the Lady Indians an 11-2 win in the sixth inning.
“It’s a wonderful thing when both halves of the lineup can contribute,” Browne said. “It takes pressure off the top of the lineup so that they don’t have to come through with a big hit all the time. It’s quite a contribution when you can get that kind of production from your 6-9 hitters.”
Indian River may have won the game, but Cape Henlopen started out in the lead – a place the Lady Indians had only been once before this season (Seaford).
Down 2-1 in the after the first inning, Browne gathered his players for a gut-check, to which his players responded appropriately.
“This isn’t a place that we’d been in very much this season, so we wanted to have the experience of ‘been there, done that,’” Browne said of his team falling behind 2-1. “We don’t want the thing to be easy. We want to be prepared for what we may see in the state tournament.”
Indian River pounced back into the game on a Jacobs bunt that scored Buchler and on a fantastic score by Riley to just miss the tag.
“Base running in softball is a big factor,” Browne said. “Shauna’s bunt wasn’t 12 inches from the plate when the catcher grabbed and Abi was sliding into home.”
Browne credited Riley’s base-running prowess to years of competition and experience.
“Kathryn (Riley) has improved her base running tremendously,” he said. “She’s faster, quicker and makes faster decisions, and that goes back to her preparation in the weight room and her experience in the game. Her reaction time was almost perfect.”
The Lady Vikings were trying to intentionally walk Powell. But a wild pitch got away from the catcher and Riley was able to slip past the a near tag to score at home plate.
Riley tossed 6-1/3 innings against Poland and gave up only four hits, one walk and one hit batter before giving up six hits in seventh inning — five straight — to pull Poland within three runs of the lead. That made way for Steele and the save opportunity — her second of the season.
Freshman reserve corner infielder/pitcher Sara Tyre pitched six strong innings against Wantagh, including eight strikeouts and two one-two-three innings in the 11-2 win.
Indian River will resume conference play at Sussex Tech on April 28 and against Delmar on May 2. your school work and not just (do well) on the field. If you don’t succeed in the classroom you can’t play on the field.”
Academic excellence allows any student an opportunity to attend the schools of their choice and join the ranks of a chosen profession, but it also translates on the field.
“If you watch them play (softball), you can see how they play – they play smart,” Steele said.
“A lot of the game of softball is mental,” mentioned sophomore first baseman Jordan Warrington.
“You have to be smart if the ball is hit to you,” added Kayla Warrington. “You have to know the play and situation. You have to have brain-power too.”
Head coach Mark Browne mentioned that his player’s achievement was better than winning a state championship and that their accomplishments would, no doubt, help them later in life.
“It’s remarkable,” Browne said of his entire team making the honor roll. “It’s just awesome. Softball is a mental game and you have to think quickly and sometimes that means dealing with failure. We talk about ‘batting 3-for-10 is successful’ – the other seven is big. If you have a bad at-bat, you have to forget about it, and that’s something we’re hoping that we’re preparing them for the next level and later in life.”
“It’s a proven fact that those who participate in sports do better in the classroom and financially will make more money,” Browne continued.
“I don’t think I’ve been more excited,” Browne gushed. “It’s a big achievement because we did it as team. To have all 15 shine is remarkable.”