If you build it, they will come
The Indian River Lady Indians softball team wanted to play ball during the Easter break last year, so they loaded up the bus and headed to southern Maryland for a tournament at Calvert High School. They won all three games – including a 2-0 win over Calvert and Division I pitching prospect Meghan Elliott, which started talk among coaches in the region.
Talk travels far and fast – especially when a team is known for competing at the highest level, which is the reason Indian River will host Poland High School from Ohio and Wantagh High School from New York, along with Sussex Tech, for an April 21 holiday tournament.
Poland High School (10-1) has won 19 straight conference championships, 10 of their past 12 district titles, was the state runner-up in 2001 and won the past three Easter holiday tournaments in Myrtle Beach, S.C., which caused head coach Reed Lamport to look for tougher competition.
“We’ve traveled to South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee and won, but I was looking to bring my team east,” Lamport said. “I started making phone calls and Indian River was named as one of the strongest teams in the state of Delaware. We want to play the best because our goal is to get better.”
In addition to playing better competition, Lamport wanted his players to see different competition as well. Poland High went south to Myrtle Beach in hopes of playing teams they wouldn’t have a chance to play, ordinarily, but ended up playing three teams from their conference.
“We were at the mercy of who did the scheduling,” Lamport said. “We wanted to play outside our conference because the competition is a little different and we want to challenge our girls more.”
Lamport modestly mentioned that his team can “hit pretty well and pitching is solid,” but their hallmark has been their defense,” he said.
Wantagh High School (2-2) plays in the toughest conference in Long Island, N.Y., and is looking to build their program to the point where they can compete for the conference.
“Right now we’re still trying to build our program,” said head coach Anthony Ciuffo. “We have 14 teams in our conference and we’re ranked at 12th. We’re trying to get as much exposure to the best competition we can find.”
Wantagh’s two losses were by one run apiece with one game ending in extra innings. Ciuffo had injuries to key players earlier in the season but now is at full strength, led by three year All-Conference senior pitcher Tiffany D’Alessandro.
D’Alessandro sports a five-pitch quiver and is the Wantagh’s cleanup batter. Sophomore Tisha Scicklickas has a tremendous arm and moved from centerfield last year to shortstop, and bats third. Junior first-baseman Lucy Delisa bats fifth and concludes the meat of their lineup.
The road may appear tough for Wantagh now, since they face three state championship contenders but it will only get tougher when they return home. Wantagh has to fit 11 games in three weeks to meet its 13 league-game minimum.
Sussex Tech (8-2), like Wantagh and Poland high schools, wants to test itself outside its conference as well.
“We wanted to try to have some competition outside our conference to see what kind of they play (in other parts of the country),” said Lady Ravens Head Coach John Marvel. “It’s exciting for the fans because you can’t see this type of competition in high schools. You see similar competition in travel ball but as far a high school grades 9 through 12, you don’t see that.”
Indian River isn’t taking any of these teams lightly, despite its 10-0 regular-season record thus far. Head coach Mark Browne has broken the season up into five-game segments, which leaves his players with some tough five-game sections. That includes their tournament and conference play against Cape Henlopen (April 25) and Sussex Tech (April 28).
“Right now, we’re 0-0,” Browne said. “This is a new five-game segment.”
The tournament begins at 10 a.m. on April 21 and may run into the April 22 if there is a rainout. They’ll use the new field at the current school, and the old field and practice field at the old school for tournament play. Concessions will be available.