Central edges Indian River in showdown on the mound
Indian River High School senior pitcher Rachel Hudson and Sussex Central senior pitcher Shelby Wilkins have been playing together and against each other since they were 9 years old, with the majority of those games taking place at the Pyle Center in Roxana.
So it was only fitting that, not only was the potential last career game between the two best friends and rival pitchers played at the same Pyle Center that they began their careers, but that the game, ultimately, came down to pitching.
“They know each other from playing travel ball together,” IR head softball coach Erika Brittingham explained. “It helps to an extent, because you know kind of their habits, but then also in the back of their mind, they know they’re playing their friends.”
“We’ve been playing since we were 9, together on the same travel team, so I pretty much know her,” Wilkins added of the friendship and rivalry.
While the game eventually ended in a 2-1 Central victory, it was the Lady Indians who struck first, when Hudson lined a shot up the middle in the bottom of the first inning that would score freshman first-baseman Madi Megee from third and give IR the 1-0 lead.
Wilkins was able to keep her composure, however, closing out the inning and leaving three runners stranded.
Both pitchers continued to keep runs off the board, and the score would remain the same until the top of the sixth inning, when Wilkins reached the plate on a sacrifice fly from Central freshman Kasie Simpson, to even the score at one.
Central sophomore Karleigh Warren would give the Lady Golden Knights the 2-1 lead in the same inning, driving in the go-ahead run on a bunt-RBI single.
For the next two innings, the Lady Indians continued to try to even the score but fell short — at one point knocking three consecutive shots by three consecutive senior batters deep toward the fence before they were snatched by Central outfielders.
“That’s who we want up — our upperclassmen,” Brittingham said of the late-inning batting stretch of seniors Ana Impastato, Karlie Smith and Hudson. “They’re our leaders this year. If we’re not gonna swing at the good pitches, it doesn’t really matter who we have up.”
While the Lady Golden Knights got back to .500 on the season and kept their playoff hopes alive at 7-7 (as of Coastal Point press time on Wednesday, May 14), Indian River dropped to 10-4 in what was the beginning of a three-game stretch against some of the state’s top teams.
After the game, Brittingham commented on the tough schedule ahead that will include games against Laurel and Milford on the road.
“We didn’t tell the girls that we had Laurel until after the game, because we didn’t want that to be their focus,” she said of the game that was bumped up from Friday, May 16, to Wednesday, May 14. “Now they know they really need to step up for tomorrow.”
After facing south squads Laurel and Milford, the Lady Indians will head to Appoquinimink on Saturday, May 17, before capping off the season at the Charter School on Monday, May 19. The first round of the DIAA playoffs is scheduled for Saturday, May 24.
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