6-0 Dover softball team faces big test today at Smyrna

Dover’s second baseman Chelsea Johnson flips the ball from her glove to first base to make the out in the third inning of last week’s game at Polytech. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Gerald Jester isn’t going to complain if his Dover High softball team wants to put 20 runs up on the scoreboard.

But as far as the veteran coach is concerned, 1-0 victories are the most satisfying.

“I love 1-0 ballgames,” he said. “That’s what I tell everybody all the time — that’s good softball. When you’re winning 1-0, you know you’re playing pretty good ball.

“You’re not kicking the ball around, you’re not having a lot of errors and your pitching is good.”

So Jester is a pretty happy coach right now after the Senators posted back-to-back 1-0 wins over Laurel and Polytech last week.

It’s all part of an unprecedented 6-0 start for Dover, which owns four shutouts already, three one-run victories as well as a pair of 20-run games. The Senators currently have a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings.

Gerald Jester is in his seventh season as Dover High’s head coach. He was named the state’s Coach of the Year last season. Delaware State News file photo

Today, though, comes Dover’s biggest test yet. The Senators go to Smyrna for a 4:15 p.m. Henlopen Conference showdown with the defending state champion Eagles.

Smyrna is also 6-0 with four shutouts. The Eagles’ current scoreless streak is at 24 innings in a row.

And Smyrna downed the Senators, 10-4, last spring as part of its 24-game winning streak.

“I know tomorrow is going to be tough,” said Dover senior catcher Kaila Quick. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a one-sided game. We’re going to play our game and they’re going to play their game.

“I think, win or lose, that game’s going to say a lot.”

The Senators’ Kaila Quick. Delaware State News file photo

“I’ve been telling the girls all week that we just need to keep playing the game we know and just play our hardest,” said junior outfielder Kaitlyn Crowe. “Anything can happen at this point.”

“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” said Jester. “They’ve been where we want to go. We’re going to see how much more work we need to do to get to that level.”

Dover’s success didn’t happen overnight of course.

The Senators went from a combined 7-45 in Jester’s first three seasons as their coach to 21-31 over the last three. He was named the state Coach of the Year last season after Dover finished 8-10.

Jester said none of Dover’s players were on travel-ball teams when he started. Now all 12 players on the roster have at least some travel-ball experience.

Travel-ball certainly prepared freshman pitcher Alexis Dowdy to hit the ground running this season. She’s thrown the four shutouts in her first six varsity games.

“She’s done all the right things to get where she is,” said Jester. “She’s worked hard. I told somebody the other day, it’s not a mistake. She’s done her homework.”

“She’s doing very well, as a freshman, staying tough out on the mound for us.” said Quick.

In allowing only five runs all season, though, Dover has also been playing some great defense. Jester said he’s been pleasantly surprised by the play of the Senators’ outfield, which includes Crowe and seniors Ashlyn Davis and Makayla Morris.

Davis said Dover’s confidence has really grown over the last three seasons.

“We’d always get down on ourselves every time something bad happens,” she said. “Now, this year, something hit us. … It feels great.”

“I think it’s more that we believe in ourselves than other people,” said Crowe. “I think they (other teams) are pleasantly surprised by how far we’ve come. They want to actually bring their ‘A’ game when they play us.”

In their two eight-win seasons over the last three years, the Senators have probably been only a couple victories away from making the state tournament for the first time in recent memory.

Knowing how close they were also motivates Dover’s players.

“It was OK but, at the same time, you want to do better,” said Davis. “You want to go to the tournament. And this year we’re pushing ourselves.”

“I feel like we’ve been knocking on the door,” said Quick, “and we’re just waiting to bang it down.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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