New head coach aims to lead IR softball back to playoffs
After getting knocked out of the first round of the DIAA playoffs by St. Georges Tech last season, the Indian River High School softball team will not only look to get back to the playoffs this year but to push the limits even further and challenge for a state championship.
While the Lady Indians will see a variety of key players returning — including senior shortstop Karlie Smith, senior pitcher Rachel Hudson and senior second-baseman Anamaria Impastato — they’ll have a first-year head coach at the helm in Erika Brittingham.
“We have a young team,” Brittingham explained. “We lost three good players, all starters,” she said of the shift from last year’s roster. “We’re really trying to push the expectations, because we feel that we could have made it much further than we did last year.”
She may be stepping in for last year’s head coach, Chris Megee, who has joined the IRHS baseball team as co-head coach, but Brittingham is already familiar with most of the squad, as she was an assistant coach last year. She also has collegiate experience as a player at Salisbury University and plans to utilize that experience to not only better her players for the upcoming season but to help them as they move on to the collegiate level themselves.
“I think that has really helped me know where the girls need to be when they do go to college,” Brittingham said, highlighting how her experience will benefit players such as Smith and Hudson as they head to the next level. “I think that’s going to make my job a little easier.”
Smith and Hudson are two of the more well-known players from last season, after Smith signed with East Carolina University and Hudson with Flagler College last fall, but Brittingham also expects Impastato to step up and lead what is otherwise a relatively young squad.
“Anamaria is such a hard worker,” she said, describing the work ethic of the Lady Indians’ leadoff hitter. “She puts everything into it. They’re going to be huge assets to the team and role models for such a young team that we will have this year. They’re just really good ballplayers.”
Tryouts for all Indian River sports began on Saturday, March 1, but practices were canceled on Monday, March 3, and Tuesday, March 4, due to inclement weather. Before tryouts, Brittingham was unsure of whether there would be a JV team this year, but she emphasized its importance for the program.
“The JV program is huge,” she said, particularly noting the benefit of being able to provide actual game experience for younger players. “Without a JV team, I probably wouldn’t have got as much pitching experience as I did in high school. Having a JV team is crucial to having a good program, so we’re really striving to have that this year.”
To help take Indian River Softball to the next level, Brittingham said, she plans to get middle school players in the district involved in clinics at the school, and she explained the importance of local travel teams like the Tribe, the Delaware Diamonds, the Delaware Storm and Swoop.
“Softball is huge in the lower part of Delaware,” she pointed out. “I see a lot of really good talent coming up. Hopefully, they’ll stay here for four years and work really hard and it will pay off for us.”
While feeder programs are certainly beneficial, ultimately, success for the program will come down to hard work and dedication from the girls currently on the roster.
“I just think a little more work will go into this season, having such young players,” said Brittingham. “It’s going to be all up to the girls, how hard they want to work and putting forth the effort to get there.”
The team will be put to their first test of the year when they face James M. Bennett High School at home on Thursday, March 13, at 4 p.m. They will also scrimmage Sussex Central on Saturday, March 15, at 8 a.m., before officially starting the season against Polytech High School at home on Tuesday, March 25. That game is set to begin at 4:15 p.m.
For up-to-the-minute news and live game updates on the Lady Indians’ softball team, and all Indian River sports, follow @CPointSports on Twitter.