Milford High School's varsity baseball team lost its opening round game in the 2008 DIAA State Baseball Tournament to Indian River 5-4, May 24 at Indian River High School. The 11th seeded Bucs were leading 4-1 heading into the seventh inning, but let the lead slip away behind several errors and timely hits by sixth seed Indian River.
For superstitious baseball players, the first play of the bottom of the seventh inning of Milford’s May 24 game at Indian River High School was a bad omen.
With the 11th seeded Bucs leading the sixth seeded Indians 4-1 and just three outs away from advancing to the second round of the 2008 DIAA State Baseball Tournament, senior shortstop Cody Killen bobbled a routine ground ball.
By the end of the inning, Milford would have pulled starting pitcher Jordan Elliott and given up four runs to lose the game 5-4.
“It’s just unfortunate,” Milford head coach John Nichols said. “Our kids played hard and with passion. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get it done when we needed to.”
Milford started off the game better than they could’ve imagined. Indian River’s ace pitcher Trevor Abbott struggled in the first inning, walking Theo Bowe, Matt Faulkner, Matt Millman and Jerrell Allen in a row to give Milford a 1-0 lead without the Bucs having to hit the ball.
Junior Johnny Michael scored two more runs with a fly ball into left field that scored Faulkner and Josh Campos, who was pinch running for Millman.
That gave Milford a commanding lead, since Elliott was pitching a superb game on the mound.
Through six innings, Elliott recorded four strikeouts, five walks and no hits.
Milford added its fourth run of the game in the top of the sixth. Indian River’s Luis Barrientos replaced Abbott on the mound, and walked senior first baseman Brett Butler.
Senior Justice Roberts replaced Butler on the base paths, and moved to second base with a fielder’s choice out at first on sophomore Adam Darling.
Roberts was then able to score when senior center fielder Theo Bowe was safe at first base on a wild throw.
But the Indians came to life in the bottom of the inning, recording two singles on Elliott and scoring one run to pull within three runs.
Barrientos kept the Bucs scoreless in the top of the seventh, bringing up one last chance for the Indians in the bottom of the inning.
That is when the bottom dropped out for the Bucs, ending when Abbott blasted a shot into left field to score teammate Jacob Balasus from third base.
Nichols said he didn’t feel he could’ve done anything different.
“I’ve gone over every pitch in my head a thousand times,” Nichols said. “And Jordan was pitching a two-hitter.
“I could’ve put Matt (Faulkner) in sooner, but we still didn’t record an out.”
Nichols also said the coaching staff knew the three batters Elliott would be facing in the seventh hadn’t recorded a hit against him in their careers.
“It’s not like we didn’t know what we were going up against,” Nichols said.
With the loss, Milford ends the 2008 season with a 16-5 record. Nichols said he didn’t feel the loss overshadowed such a successful regular season, but it was frustrating to loose to Indian River.
“Our goals were to win a game in the state tournament and win the (Henlopen Conference Southern Division),” Nichols said. “And we fell one game short in both to the same team (Indian River).”
And for the second straight season, the Bucs made the state tournament, but lost in the first round.
“We know what it takes to get there,” Nichols said. “Now we have to start winning games.”