It was an opportunity to play some competition that is perennially strong to provide a litmus test to just how good the Indian River softball team is this year, or how much work they have to put in before the tough stretch of games start up in the Henlopen Conference schedule.
Well, if the results of the two games last Saturday at the Mardela Tournament are any indication, the rest of the Henlopen Conference has been put on notice.
The Indians were impressive from start to finish in sweeping a pair of games against St. Michael’s (14-3) and host Mardela (12-2) to improve their overall record to 5-0 on the season.
“This is our first doubleheader that we’ve ever done at Indian River, and it was something that we wanted to try out just because of our pitching staff,” IR coach Erika Murphy said after the games. “We knew that we were playing two really good Maryland teams, and we wanted to come away with two wins.”
The Indians scored early and often in their first game with St. Michael’s scoring three in the first, a single run in the second and four more in the third to take an 8-0 lead.
Senior Julia Bomhardt led the way for the Indians with three hits from her leadoff spot while also driving in three runs. Kaylah Briddell, Kathryn Collins, Taylor Lipkins, Sami Mayfield, and Kayler Townsend each had two hits for the Indians as well in a 15-hit offensive barrage.
After the shellacking of St. Michael’s the Indians had to wait over two hours before their second game, and if Mardela was hoping the delay and chilly temperatures would cool down the Indians’ bats, they were sorely mistaken.
“Breaks are never good for anyone,” Murphy said of the long wait between games. “But I felt like (the girls) did a nice job of staying focused, really playing as a team, and making some adjustments.”
The Indians racked up 15 more hits, of which seven came in the decisive six-run fifth inning, which was even more impressive en route to the 10-run mercy rule rout of the Warriors.
“We have a couple girls that were stringing some things together at opportune times. I feel like sometimes they just read my mind. I don’t necessarily always give them the bunt, but always just read that defense. Our biggest thing is read the defense, see what they give you, and take what they give you. If that’s a hit great, if that’s small ball great, we just kind of play to what they’re giving us to play to our strengths.”
Single runs in the first — Bomhardt scoring on Townsend single — and second — Grace Snyder crossing after a Bomhardt single — innings put the Indians up 2-0 early.
The Warriors evened the score in their half of the third with Megan Caputo’s two-run home run over the right-centerfield fence.
“It was a mistake pitch, and she owned it that right afterwards,” Murphy said of Abby O’Shield’s fence-clearing pitch. “She said that it was not where it needed to be, and she said my goal is to not give up a home run the rest of the year. If she sticks to it great. If not, we just work for one run every time, and if she does make that mistake, she knows that her teammates are there to back her up and move us forward in the game to move passed that.”
It proved to be the only highlight of the game for Mardela as O’Shields would finish up with seven strikeouts in four innings of work. She allowed just five hits. Izzy Alley closed things out with a scoreless fifth frame for the Indians.
The senior Bomhardt completed her day with another three hits, two runs scored, and two RBI.
“Julia is a great leadoff batter, all-around player,” Murphy admitted about her top-of-the-lineup table-setter. “She’s our senior leader out there along with Braydee (Whitman) and Damya (Williams) our other two seniors that we have. We’re not fairly old, we’re fairly young, and as a team it’s good to have those leaders that kind of take control of everyone and lead them in the right direction.
“Julia is a great batter on realizing since she can hit, slap and bunt, and do all three very well. I think that she really, more so than anyone else, is able to read that defense because she can do all three. I kind of leave her up to her own. Whatever she feels like she needs to do to get on, that’s her main goal is just to get on base.”
Freshman Townsend was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate in the nightcap with a double and 3 RBI with two runs scored to her credit. Whitman chipped in with a 3-for-3 effort, which included a pair of RBI and a double. Williams was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.
Junior Grace Snyder had a nice game at the plate as well as behind for the Indians. The right-handed hitting catcher was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, but it was her leadoff double in the fifth the ignited the seven-run rally for IR. She also threw out a would be base stealer in the first inning.
“She’s a baller,” said Murphy about her backstop. “She just goes out, and she just does her. She doesn’t worry about what’s happened in past games, and she just wants to kind of move forward and better the team. She knows her role, whether it’s in the sixth or the seventh hole, that her role is in the middle of the lineup is to just get on. So then we can get to that bottom and then to that top again to move things around.”
Snyder was thrilled with her team’s performance in the tournament as well.
“I feel like we really played well as a team,” Snyder confessed. “Our bats were on fire. Total of over 20 runs, less than two errors all day. It’s a nice feeling.”
So with the sweep in their rearview mirror, the Indians turn their attention to the Henlopen Conference competition, and Murphy thinks it sets her squad up nicely for the tough tests they have up ahead.
“I think it does well,” Snyder admitted. “We have a really tough game with Smyrna coming up on Friday (April 6), and that’s kind of what we’re looking at to prepare. So we’ll get back to work this week to work on our game plan for that. The girls are really excited, and they’re playing really great ball right now. I think if we just play to what we’re good at that’s gonna benefit us in any situation hopefully.”
EXTRA BASES: The tournament consisted of eight total teams, and was played this year at the Henry S. Parker Recreation & Parks Complex. It was the 9th annual edition of the tournament, and from talking with several tournament officials, they are hoping to increase it to 16 teams next year.