The Indian River High School softball program will have a new boss leading the charge this season, but players on the team are very familiar with the guy calling the shots.
Long-time teacher and coach Sam O’Shields is taking over the IR program from Erika Murphy, who stepped down in the fall after guiding the program for five years.
O’Shields is a health and physical education teacher at the high school, and has several years of coaching on various levels of softball. He is also an assistant coach for the IR football team.
The Indians are the defending Henlopen Conference South Division champions, and were also a state qualifier last year. They have a wealth of talent returning to the team that looks to continue their winning ways.
“I told the girls that our short-term goals are to gel as a team, and as a family, the best we can,” the new coach said. “The long-term goals are to get ourselves into the playoffs, and to make sure we win enough games to get ourselves into the playoffs. I’m a big believer that if you can get into the playoffs, anything can happen, and we’ll give it all we got when we get there.”
O’Shields has known many of his players before this season, having coached them in travel ball, Little League and even in middle school. Two, in particular, he has known literally all their lives — his daughters Abby and Savannah. They are both returning varsity players, as are Grace Snyder, Morgan Bomhardt and Kaylah Briddell, who all played significant parts in IR’s success a season ago.
“At this point in time, we do have enough girls for two programs,” Coach O’Shields said. “We have 11 girls returning from the varsity, and they are going to be on the varsity as of right now. We haven’t been outside to see the girls in the dirt, in the grass and live hitting. There maybe a couple on JV that could be moving up once I get a chance to see them and can justify bringing them up.”
O’Shields said being in the same school as his players is an advantage for him as the new head of the program.
“I’ve coached a lot of different teams in the building and out of the building, and I’ve talked to a lot of coaches throughout the years that have done the same,” O’Shields said. Other coaches,” he said, “agree, and I agree, that it is an advantage to be in the building, to build that bond, that relationship, and have that good communication between players and coaches.”
The Indians will open their 2019 campaign with a pair of scrimmages prior to the regular season getting under way. Their first official game of the year will be on Friday, March 22, when they hit the road to face Woodbridge.
By Jason Feather