The Indian River varsity baseball team dropped a tough 9-2 loss to last year’s state champion, St. Mark’s, on March 22.
The non-conference game provided the Indians a good look of where they stand so far against upper echelon baseball programs. “We’re going to build from here. If we stick together as a team, and continue to hit, then we will be fine,” said head coach Howard Smack.
This game was a classic pitcher’s duel — two highly regarded pitchers with nasty stuff, duking it out. Senior Cody Jensen displayed excellent control throughout the game, working both sides of the plate to collect five strikeouts in 5 1/3 inning of work. Jensen showed great poise on the mound as he struck out the heart of St. Mark’s lineup — the number three hitter was called out looking at a rolling curveball.
St. Mark’s star pitcher John Dischert pitched a no-hit shutout last season when these two teams met, but he gave up two runs on six hits in this year’s match up. Dischert — nine strikeouts — cruised through the first five innings with little concern as the Indians had a hard time putting the bat on the ball.
Senior Matt Lewis beat out an infield grounder that hugged the third base line to lead off the third, giving the Indians their first base runner but was subsequently thrown out by St. Mark’s catcher Phil Aviola.
Lewis and junior Josh Dean soon after tagged the highly touted Dischert for two solo homeruns in the sixth inning. Lewis finished the day 2-3, while Dean hit 1-3. Senior D.J. Clark, junior Colin Warner, and Jensen also chipped in with a hit apiece.
What was a tight, well-pitched game quickly turned into a game of mistakes and missed opportunities. The Indians killed themselves by committing four errors, which included two erratic throw-out attempts, a botched run-down, and a crucial dropped ball that allowed two runs to score in the sixth inning.
“St. Mark’s is too good of a team to make mistakes and still win. We had two outs when that ball was dropped in the sixth-we were only down two runs at that time. We just made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time,” said Smack.
After Jensen was pulled from the game senior reliever Jerry Meiklejohn got shelled by St. Mark’s big bangers. Meiklejohn gave up a first batter two-run single and back-to-back homeruns in his first regular season outing. Meiklejohn faced seven batters in one inning of play with three earned runs.
“Overall, I was very pleased with my pitchers. Jensen pitched very well and Meiklejohn did, too, he just can’t hang that curveball to those big boys,” said Smack.
Though the Indians lost their first game, there is optimism for the future as they prepare to take on the southern Henlopen conference.
“We had a talk after the game, and we acknowledged that we did better than we did against St. Mark’s last year, but now it’s time to work on the conference,” said Smack.