Seven Indians receive All-State recognition

While all the games have been played and the seniors have made their final walk as graduates, the accolades for the 2018 spring-season student-athletes of Indian River High School continue to pour in.

Recently, it was announced that seven different individuals had received All-State recognition for their performances this past season.

Senior softball player Julia Bomhardt was named to the first team as a centerfielder. Senior baseball catcher Cole Hitch received an honorable mention. Junior utility player J.J. Killen picked up an honorable mention as well. Senior soccer midfielder Sammi Whelen garnered first-team honors, while classmate Fabrea McCray was named to the second team as a goalie. Junior Grace Engel and freshman Izzy Binko joined her on the second team, as a defender and forward, respectively.

For Bomhardt, it was her third straight year being recognized, and her second straight on the first team after picking up second-team honors as a sophomore.

“I think it’s always just an honor for me,” said Bomhardt, who is the daughter of Brian and Alicia Bomhardt. “My main goal was to play in that state championship game, but I am very thankful for this honor. For us to win the South Division championship — it was 11 years or something like that since IR had won it. We’ve always been the underdog. To bring the program back, and reclaim the South was great.”

Taking a look at Bomhardt’s stats from this season, one can only marvel at what the Indians’ leadoff hitter did.

She led the team in almost every offensive category: batting average (.478), on-base percentage (.519), slugging percentage (.681), hits (33), triples (7), RBIs (19), runs scored (22), stolen bases (15), extra-base hits (7), total bases (47) and two-out RBIs (8). All of that out of the leadoff spot in the order. Collectively over her four year career at IR, she led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits, stolen bases and total bases every single year.

“I love being the leadoff hitter,” admitted Bomhardt, who plays her travel ball for the Severna Park Hornets with her sister Morgan, a sophomore at IR. “I like being able to set the tone for the team. If we scored first, it really set the tone for the whole game. Home-field advantage wasn’t really a big thing for us, because we were lucky enough to have fans that traveled wherever we went.”

Bomhardt will be heading south to continue her playing career at Division II Newberry College in South Carolina. She plans to major in biology, but said she may decide to go in with an undecided major at this point.

Hitch was one of the senior leaders for the Indians baseball team this past year. The right-handed backstop registered a .417 batting average to go along with a .532 on-base percentage and .542 slugging percentage. He finished the season with four doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs, and scored five runs.

“It felt pretty good when I found out about the honor,” said Hitch, who is the son of Ken and Donna Hitch. “Being thought of as one of the top catchers in the state felt pretty good.

“I just had confidence coming into the year. I knew we had a good team. We set some goals, and we worked hard every day to meet those goals. Last year, my batting average wasn’t too hot. I wanted to bounce back and have my team trust me when it was my time to hit.”

Hitch will be continuing his playing career at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County (UMBC), where he will major in criminal justice.

Killen was a jack-of-all-trades type for the Indians this season. The junior excelled at the plate, leading the team in several offensive categories, including batting average (.482), hits (27), doubles (7), home runs (3), RBIs (22), on-base percentage (.561) and slugging percentage (.804). He was third on the team in runs scored, with 14.

“It was really great to be recognized for what I did this season,” said Killen, the son of Jason and Deanna Killen. “I was really disappointed with my batting average last season, and coach D.J. helped me out with my swing. I really wanted to improve on that this year, and I think that I was able to do that, obviously.”

Killen was also one of the horses on the mound for the Indians. The right-hander pitched to a 2-3 record, but only 13 of the 26 runs scored against him were earned. He finished with a 2.44 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP, while striking out a team-high 26 batters.

He will be playing this week in the Carpenter Cup — a prestigious high-school baseball showcase — starting as a member of the Delaware South team, along with fellow Indian Jacob Anderson.

For Whelen, it was the culmination of four years of blood, sweat and tears, and she was more than happy to pick up her second straight first-team honors.

“I was really proud of myself for getting honored again,” Whelen said. “I set goals for myself and for the team. I am proud of myself, and for the other girls on the team that were recognized as well.”

The senior midfielder led the Indians with 16 assists this season, while also chipping in with six goals. The daughter of Mary Ellen and Jeff Whelen, Sammi Whelan will be continuing her education at the University of Delaware in the fall as a special-education major.

“As a senior captain, I wanted to be a good leader for my teammates,” Whelen admitted. “I wanted to help the team become everything we could be. The win over Caravel” in the state quarterfinals “was really special because we had lost to them my freshman and sophomore years in the state championship games. For the seniors to finally get that win over them, and in overtime, was really an awesome feeling.”

McCray was the reliable final line of defense for the Indians’ girls’ soccer program for four years, and her second-team honors were surprising and rewarding.

“I was honored to hear that I had been recognized,” said McCray, the daughter of Fabian McCray Sr. “This year was more than I had expected at first, honestly. It was the first time playing with a lot of these girls, so I wasn’t sure about our chemistry. I had no doubt, though, that Coach [Steve] Kilby, being the great coach that he is, would figure it out for us. I am just so proud of how far we got.”

McCray made more than 80 saves this season for the Indians, including a season-high 14 in a 2-1 win over Caravel Academy in the DIAA Division II state quarterfinals. She was also credited with an assist.

She will be attending Delaware State University in the fall, where she will play on a club team initially before walking on to the varsity team her sophomore year.

“I had a good run on IR,” McCray recalled. “With Sammi, we collectively played in 15 seasons of sports together. We have become best friends. We always worked to make each other better. She has been a big help to get me where I am today, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”

Engel was honored with second-team recognition for the second straight year. The daughter of Rob and Christina Engel certainly was thrilled to receive the accolade again.

“It means all the work I put in is paying off,” assessed Engel. “It is the most prestigious honor I can get for myself and for my school, so I am really proud of that.”

There certainly was some added pressure heading into this season after Engle picked up the same honors last year.

“Definitely,” she said. “I was named a captain, and I really wanted to make [All-State] again. We started out a little slow this year, but the win over Delmar, I think, was a big turning point for us.”

Engel, who said she hopes to play collegiately, finished the year with three goals and eight assists. For now, though, she will continue playing for River Soccer Club throughout the summer and fall.

Rarely does a freshman make a big enough impact to get recognized with All-State honors. However, Binko is not an ordinary freshman, and she proved that with every goal she scored.

Through the course of the 19-game season, Binko scored in 13 of those contests. She would finish with a team-high 28 markers to go along with nine assists.

“I was hoping to get the honors, but I wasn’t sure if I would,” Binko admitted. “It was certainly a personal goal of mine.

“I expected for us to have a really good season, and I expected us to go far. We did that. I like the style of play that Coach Kilby has, where we pass to create our offense and not just put it through and see what happens.”

The daughter of Leigh Scott and Joe Binko, Izzy Binko will be continuing to play for her Delaware FC travel team all summer and into the fall.

It was an impressive spring season overall for Indian River, and these seven student-athletes — and their efforts on the field — are a big reason why.

By Jason Feather
Point Reporter