Lady Indians make short work of Dover in softball opener
Everyone on Indian River’s varsity softball squad found their way around the bases, and each came up big on defense, as the team trounced Dover, 24-2, in the season opener this past Tuesday, March 22. The 10-run mercy rule came into effect for the second year in a row in the Lady Indians’ season debut against the Senators, after a score of 16-0 was tallied last March. This year, a fury of freshmen are helping to blueprint another potential run for the Indian River softball team.
“The girls, for one thing, really like each other,” said Indian River head coach Chris Megee, “and that’s the best thing we could ask for. Second, we’re coming in with a good foundation. We’re ready to go, and at the same time, we plan on playing hard in every single game.”
The Lady Indians came with authority on Tuesday, hosting Dover, as a steady offense at the plate went to work. The Lady Senators were able to capitalize on IR errors in the opening inning to go up, 2-0, but when it was the Indians’ turn, they answered back. The Indians made a complete rotation at the plate in the bottom of the first, tallying 10 runs, then continued the pace with 13 more in the second.
Sophomore Jodi Powell and freshman Rachel Hudson each batted 4-4 on the day, while Carleigh Walter, Brook Ash and Karlie Smith went 3-4. Ash picked up a triple in the third inning, while Amanda Horton, Paige Atkinson and Hudson contributed to the win with doubles. Freshman pitchers Hudson and Ashley Banks combined in the game for a no-hitter.
“The difference is this game, last year, wasn’t very productive for us,” Megee admitted, “but this season, we have a young nucleus and this game gives us a chance to play and get the jitters out. We get the chance to make mistakes and fix them for when we see stronger, upstate teams, not taking anything from Dover.”
He was pleased with the work his young pitchers put in at the mound this past Tuesday. “Our pitchers are really doing a fantastic job,” he said. “Rachel will be something special for us, and Ashley is someone we can bring in anytime that we need to. I feel just as good playing her as I do anyone else. Her and [freshman] Sarah Hickman, who we brought in to catch, really came through for us. We expect great things out of these young girls, and they keep us in the game. The rest of them will play defense and put the ball out there, as long as our pitching’s keeping us in it.”
Pitchers, nationwide, have their work cut out for them this year. A change in high school rules mandated that the rubber on the pitcher’s mound be backed up three feet, to 43 feet, matching college regulations, an aspect of the game that could fare well for the Lady Indians’ offense. “When you give somebody an extra yard to see the ball,” said Megee, “it’s going to help you out a great deal. These girls are going to be able to stay back and recognize a pitch a little bit better. I think it really affects the drop-off for the most part, and it gives these girls a chance at the plate.”
Because of his team’s one-two pitching combination, he also is eager to see how the added distance plays out on the defensive side of the ball. “Our pitchers aren’t quite the power pitchers you see out there,” he said, “but they can move the ball. The added distance is going to give them a few extra feet to let the ball move around. With the type of pitching we have, I think it gives us an advantage right now.”
While a win for the season opener was a welcomed one, Megee knows that there is no time to rest. The Lady Indians turned around, hosting Laurel, this past Thursday, March 24 (after Coastal Point press deadline). Laurel finished last season, 17-1, before advancing to the state quarterfinals. The Lady Indians continue this weekend at Parkside on Saturday, March 26, then at Polytech on Tuesday, March 29. “I hate to say that our season is going to be in the first couple games of the year,” said Megee, “but these games will really set the tone for the rest of our schedule. My evaluation is how good are we playing by end of the year. We want to continue to get better each and every game, and these next three to four games are very crucial.”
While the team was happy to be on the positive end of Tuesday’s final score, Megee doesn’t want it getting to the girls’ heads. “You only get a few games like this a year,” he said. “We have some real challenges coming up. It’s not going to be like this the whole time. The rest of them are one- or two-run games, and if you’re not that close, you’re looking from the other side, fighting your way out of a hole.”
The key to getting past the next games and avoiding a repeat of last year’s early 0-5 losing streak is keeping a sound mind and intense style of play. “Everybody else has the same problem, schedule-wise,” Megee said. “Central starts off with Polytech and Caesar Rodney. Nobody has acupcake schedule. Teams are going to have to take their losses with a grain of salt and move on. I realize this season’s going to be tough, but we’ll get there. It’s all about getting to know each other and hustling. If we get thrown off bases, we get thrown off, but we’ll always be aggressive. The girls really seem to like that approach.”