If you ask any Indian River baseball player, they’d probably tell you that they shouldn’t have lost a game this year. They beat the defending state champs St. Mark’s in the season opener and avenged last season’s state tournament loss to Newark with a 5-4 win, but not everything has been extra base hits and pine tar.
They lost a winnable game to Sussex Central near the end of that game and lost to Caesar Rodney 8-7 in extra innings on April 10.
Indian River (6-2) trailed the Riders 7-2 after 3.5 innings but rallied to tack on five runs after a leadoff pop-fly.
Mike Casale, Zack Warner and Josh Dean led the rally (two walks and E-6) to load the bases before getting knocked in on three consecutive at-bats (Trevor Abbott, Luis Barrientos and Bryan Lynch). The Riders walked Colin Warner, who had already singled twice, and Thomas Veith knocked in the last run on a RBI-single to tie the game at seven apiece.
Just four days prior, Indian River was in a similar situation — tied with Smryna, 1-1, going into the top of the fifth, before the Indians exploded to score 13 runs on eight hits. Indian River went on to win the game 14-1. Many on the team had a similar feeling during the Caesar Rodney game.
“I knew we could come back,” Casale said. “Caesar Rodney is a good team, but we out-hit them. We made too many errors on the field.”
Indian River committed three errors — two of which were made Veith on seemingly routine plays — but it was the last that ended their hopes.
Caesar Rodney had base runners in scoring position (second and third base) with two outs when Trevor Abbott forced the Riders’ No. 3 batter to hit a routine ground ball to Veith. His throw was low and it squibbed past Casale — allowing the two go-ahead runs to score.
“Thomas never makes that error. I think he hesitated for a second and he ended up pushing the ball,” explained Casale. “He makes that play 99 times out of 100. I should’ve blocked it but I guess this was just one of those games.”
Two innings prior, in the top of sixth, Veith made a sensational catch toward shallow left-center field to squelch a Riders scoring opportunity for the third out.
“This is a game where we made too many boo-boos,” said Indian River’s head coach, Howard Smack. “We have to concentrate and keep our heads in the game at all times.”
Smack mentioned that this was a game that they wanted to win, to have a chance winning the conference outright. But Riders’ Head Coach John Newman knows that Indian River will be in the hunt till the very end.
“Indian River’s a very good team,” Newman said. “They have too much talent to not come back, and I’m certain that they’ll be successful down the road in the state tournament.”
“This is a great building block for us because we have such a young team,” Newman explained further. “Every game we play will be contested, so we know what to expect.”
Trevor Abbott earned his third win against Smyrna over five innings pitched and striking out five but picked up his first loss in a relief effort against Caesar Rodney. Warner (4-0) picked up his fourth win against Smyrna and Nik Kmetz tied his record at 1-1 in five innings of work over Nandua. Kmetz fanned five, walked two and allowed two earned runs on four hits.
Bryan Lynch led Indian River against the Riders with 3-5 hitting, including a double, solo homerun and two RBI’s. Barrientos went 2-4 with two RBI’s. Warner went 2-2 before being intentionally walked in the fifth inning (finished game 2-4).
Indian River resumes conference play against Cape Henlopen on April 25.