Indian River senior outfielder Mark Ahfeldt has waited a long time to contribute. He had only 10 at-bats last season and has been used mostly as a pinch runner so far this season.
But since starting right-fielder Josh Sweetman and Art Davidson were to attend the Business Partners of America regional competition in New York last week and wouldn’t be available for their next two games against Milford and Cape Henlopen, Indians head coach Howard Smack decided to get Ahfeldt in the game, in a close one against Lake Forest on May 8.
And, boy, did he come through.
The game was tied at three runs apiece with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning when Ahfeldt smacked a walk-off RBI single into right field to score first-baseman Mike Casale for the 4-3 win in extra innings.
Ahfeldt also recorded four put-outs, including the second two outs in the sixth and eighth innings. He tracked the Spartans’ final out of game, a deep fly ball by Steve Loeffler, to the fence for the sure catch.
Ahfeldt had only seen six pitches the whole game and had skied out to right in his first at-bat in the previous inning. But he credited his first at-bat and play in the outfield for the game-winning hit.
“It kind of got my blood going and got me more into the game,” he said of playing the field. “And, in my second at-bat, I was just trying not to get any arch in it at all.”
“He was bringing it our perfect speed,” Ahfeldt said of Spartans pitcher Adam Epps, “but we were all trying to crush the ball and, instead, getting base hits because we all thought we could hit homeruns.”
The Spartans’ middle infielders shagged seven of the Indians’ eight infield fly balls.
“I wanted Mark to get used to being out there (in right field), with Josh and Art not going to be here, and he made me look like a hero,” Smack said.
“Mark’s been chomping at the bit to get in there and he’s bided his time. And he’s earned the right to be out there,” Smack continued.
Ahfeldt’s walk-off RBI single extended the Indians’ six-game winning streak that started with its 10-5 win over Cape Henlopen on April 24. Since then, the Indians (10-5, 9-2) have outscored their opponents 51-25 and have scored at least 10 runs in four of their last six wins.
Senior left-fielder Zack Warner gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a sacrifice fly to score Lewis, who then scored one of his two runs in the game. The Spartans countered the next inning by scoring three runs, including two with two outs on a stand-up double by Tim Hopkins.
Lewis scored his second run on a throwing error by third-baseman Andrew Crawford during Bo Wilkinson’s at-bat, to bring the score within one run at 3-2. Lewis later tied the game, scoring Luis Barrientos on a RBI single up the middle before Ahfeldt was able to win the game for Indians in extra innings.
Epps and Indians pitcher Cory Showalter (3-0) each pitched a complete game, with Showalter getting the better of the exchange. Showalter pitched a two-hitter while striking out six and walking four for his third win on the varsity team. Epps allowed six hits and four walks while striking out only one batter in the losing effort.
The Indians will host three of their next four games at home, including a May 16 game at the Pyle Center against Sussex Central. The Indians will conclude their 10-inning game with Laurel on May 18.
Currently, the Indians hold a two-game advantage over Seaford for the Southern Division crown. They will win their third straight division title if they win their next two conference games, against Milford and Laurel. Caesar Rodney would have to lose at least one game and Indian River would have to win out if they were going to contend for the conference title.