PHILADELPHIA — The Indian River High School baseball team took a critical step forward in their long-awaited bid to contend for the Frontier League “A” Division title Wednesday.
Sawyer Honeywell and Owen Frans delivered back-to-back key hits to seize control in the fourth inning, and fellow senior Logan Fults fended off a seventh-inning rally to lift the host Warriors to the 8-5 victory over the Watertown Cyclones.
Indian River (3-3 overall, 2-3 league) bounced back from consecutive losses to Carthage, which entered the day with a 3-3 league record, as it aims for its first divisional crown in at least a decade.
The Warriors finished with three victories in each of the last two years and haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2015.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors with a lot of experience, and they’re really learning to win,” Indian River coach Austin Kenyon said.
“They have lost a lot in the past, and they’re learning to win, and to see this here with a close game, Watertown is pressing and we’re able to hold them off. They’re starting to do those little things we need to do to win baseball games.”
The Cyclones (1-5, 1-4) nearly came back in the final inning but fell short of completing the rally.
Watertown loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh inning while trailing, 8-5, before junior Daniel Maurer grounded into a fielder’s choice at third base for the last out.
Fults pitched two-plus innings to close the victory, tallying four strikeouts while working around five walks, including three in the seventh inning.
“It’s a big morale booster, we knew we were capable of doing something like this, we just needed to see it in game to get us moving again,” Fults said afterward.
He later added: “I like being in a closing position. Watertown is not a team to underestimate, and I knew that, so I was trying to throw some strikes, rely on my fielders, and do what I could do.”
Indian River took a 4-3 edge into the bottom of the fourth inning before capitalizing on a crucial sequence.
Honeywell ripped a single to shallow left field to drive in a pair of runs with two outs, and in the next at-bat, Owen Frans followed with another two-run single to extend the advantage to 8-3.
“It was big coming out of that inning, things are going slow and we’re just waking the bats up, and then we actually put the bat on the ball, it’s a great feeling,” said senior Talfourd Wynne, who struck out six and allowed two runs on two hits in four innings pitched.
Wynne doubled in a run to push Indian River to a 2-0 advantage in the third, and the Warriors scored another pair of runs on errors later in the frame to increase their edge to 4-0.
“Offensively, we did a good job today of getting the clutch hit,” Kenyon said. “We’ve left a lot of guys on in the last couple of games, and we were able to push them over today, and that goes back to that learning to win, that’s what that is.”
Watertown answered in the fourth inning when eighth-grader Edward Hayden III ripped a two-run single to deep left field, then Preston Soluri drew a bases-loaded walk to cut the deficit to 4-3 for the Cyclones. They added two runs on bases-loaded walks by Hayden and John Flowers IV in the fifth inning to cut the deficit to 8-5.
Watertown drew 12 walks but ultimately stranded 11 total baserunners, including seven combined across the last three innings. They left the bases jammed in both the fifth and seventh innings.
“The problem was we left seven runners in scoring position, and you can’t do that, we got to have a clutch hit or two in certain situations, and today we just didn’t seem to get those hits,” Watertown coach Riley Moonan said.
“We didn’t drive the ball as well as I would have liked,” he later added. “We walked a few times, but at the end of the day, you win baseball games by swinging the bat.”
Indian River and Watertown are set to clash again on Friday and Saturday to complete their three-game league set. The Warriors previously won one of three against the Carthage Comets in what is expected to be a tight race in the three-team division.
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