The Smyrna High School baseball team is off to a hot start this year with a 9-2 record midway through the season.
Head Coach Mike Henderson said the team has attracted a lot of attention throughout the state with the team’s quick start.
“Our games always seem to be against our opponent’s number one pitcher, but the team has been working hard and [players] have dedicated themselves to the challenge,” Henderson said. “This team should be proud of their current number six ranking but we have a tough road ahead with our remaining schedule, which includes top-seeded A.I. DuPont and St. Marks.”
Henderson said the team does a lot well including battling all seven innings and not panicking when they’re down. He said they’re playing their game and the team’s three senior captains – Justin Bowens, Nick Macey and John Richardson – have set the tone with their “all business” mentality. The team also isn’t stranding as many runners on base like it had a tendency to do in the beginning of the season.
Henderson said the Eagles haven’t beaten Milford in several years so defeating the Bucs 13-4 was a gratifying win for Smyrna. The Eagles came from behind 4-1 against Sussex Tech to score four runs with two outs in the seventh inning for a 5-4 walk-off win. Then Smyrna was down 5-1 to Delmar in the third inning in that game but answered with eight runs in the bottom of the inning to defeat Delmar 15-5 in a shortened contest. Henderson said team earned wins against solid teams like Lake Forest and Newark.
To continue to perform well, Henderson said the team needs to keep working hard and get better both offensively and defensively. He said the team’s defensive play has gotten the Eagles out of several jams this year, but it’s also been the same defense that put the team in bad situations in the first place. Henderson said the team can’t do that against top teams in the state, nor can the Eagles call themselves a top team until that is improved upon.
“We need to get used to teams coming at us as we shoot for the [state] tournament and further establish the baseball program,” Henderson said. “I think we’re capable of playing better overall and think we will need to do so to compete with upcoming opponents.”
Also contributing to the team’s success this year, Henderson said, is the “why not us” attitude of the players and coaches.
“There’s talent here and this coaching staff has pushed them beyond their baseball limits at times, which I believe has prepared them for situations on the field…and hopefully, off the field as well,” Henderson said.
While the team is winning, it could take more than that to make the state tournament as it’s done on a point system. Henderson hopes the improved strength of Smyrna’s schedule this year works in the teams favor as 12 of 18 opponents can possibly finish with a winning record; this will give the Eagles an opportunity for added points.
“Of course this makes winning games much more of a task by replacing weaker opponents from previous years with A.I. DuPont, St. Marks, Salesianum, and Newark this year,” Henderson said. “We also need to get healthy and stay healthy.”
The team has been playing without healthy pitcher/outfielder John Richardson, who suffered a knee injury on April 12 against Newark. Henderson said other players have stepped up but he’ll be glad to have Richardson back 100 percent soon as he’ll be needed on the mound down the stretch.