There is an air of confidence permeating from the dugout of the Indian River High School softball team, and rightfully so.
Last year’s 15-6 squad lost just three seniors — Sammy Mumford, Mackenzie Collins and Madi McGee. Now, while that trio was very important to last year’s success, there is quite a youthful, talented group looking to step right into their cleats.
“The team is working really hard to fill those shoes,” said fifth-year head coach Erika Murphy. “We’re young, but we’re good. We pride ourselves on putting the best nine out there, regardless of grade.”
The top two batting averages from a year ago will return for the Indians, in the form of senior outfielders Julia Bomhardt and Damya Williams. Fellow senior infielder Braydee Whitman also returns after leading the team in doubles last year, with 10.
“We have several girls returning who will be key to our success,” Murphy acknowledged. “I just wanted to highlight those seniors, because they are really pushing the young girls and the returners. They have really helped to bring the younger players along, and we are really forming a great bond here in the early going.”
Pitcher Abby O’Shields will toe the rubber in the circle again this year, fresh off of last year’s impressive 8-1 mark, where she averaged a strikeout an inning.
“I may be partial, but I think the Henlopen Conference is the best softball in the state of Delaware,” Murphy said. “Each game really prepares us for the state tournament.
“Delmar won the division last year and is a great rival for us. Lake Forest, Smyrna and Sussex Central are all going to be good again this year.”
IR defeated Delmar last year, 12-2, but had setbacks against the likes of Lake Forest (6-2), Smyrna (10-5) and Central (8-2). Following that Central loss, which left the Indians’ record at 7-5, the girls rattled off six straight wins, to clinch a state playoff berth.
The Indians will participate in another play-day of scrimmage this Saturday at the Pyle Center in Roxana, against eight other teams. Game times are 9:30 and 11:15 a.m., followed by 1 and 2:45 p.m.
The season-opener will take place at home against Woodbridge on Thursday, March 22, at 4:15 p.m. They also play at home on Monday, March 26, against Polytech, before five straight road games, including a pair at the Mardela Tournament in Salisbury, Md., on Friday, March 30.
Extra Bases: The Indians scored a total of 205 runs last year, for an average of almost 10 per game. After two wins to start the state playoffs last year against Red Lion Christian Academy and Lake Forest, the Indians lost in the DIAA state semifinals to eventual champion Milford.