Dover eyes first softball state tournament berth

Alayna Gigliotti. Delaware State News file photos

DOVER — Sometimes Jayla Davis just has to see it to believe it.

She’ll go to Dover High’s online softball page just to look at the Senators’ record for this season.

“I’m like, does this really say 15-3?” Davis said with a laugh. “Is this some kind of joke or something?”

Maybe the only thing better than seeing the Senators’ program-best record would be seeing ‘Dover’ in a DIAA state tournament bracket for the first time.

The Senators thought that day was going to come Monday. But with the wet weather leaving fields unplayable, teams were given until today to get in some more makeup games.

The 16-team tourney bracket is now expected to be announced this evening. The first round of the tournament has also been pushed back a day from Wednesday to Thursday.

Dover softball coach Gerald Jester

“I’m really anxious, it’s exciting,” said Davis, a junior designated hitter. “We’ve worked so hard and it’s finally paying off. For this to be the first time for Dover to ever make the playoffs, it’s like a dream come true.”

Better late than ever, seventh-year coach Gerald Jester knows Dover will be in the tourney field whenever the bracket comes out. He knows it’s been a long time coming.

Jester thinks Dover’s point index will be high enough to make the Senators one of the top eight seeds. That would give them a first-round home game in the tournament.

He thinks it’d be great if some former players came out to the game.

“Like I told the girls, it’s for everybody that wore the Dover softball jersey,” said Jester. “It’s not just for this team but it’s for all the past teams that built it to get here.”

Dover freshman pitcher Lex Dowdy.

On a roster that includes five freshmen, some of Dover’s players are too young to have endured the program’s more difficult seasons. Between 2011-14, the Senators won a total of only six games.

The youngsters, though, say they can appreciate how far the program has come.

“He (Jester) talks about how the team’s never made it to the playoffs and we’re doing something good this year,” said freshman third baseman Alayna Gigliotti. “That makes me really proud. I feel like it’s a special year for Dover.”

“We’ve put in a lot of work,” said freshman first baseman Emma Crowe. “A lot of my teachers in class are asking how we’re doing. They always support us and come out to our games.”

As a member of the Henlopen Conference, the Senators have faced their share of tough competition. Dover’s only losses this season have been to defending state champion Smyrna, Sussex Tech and Caesar Rodney.

At least one Henlopen squad has reached the state finals for the last 17 years with downstate teams winning the title 11 times in that stretch.

Dover softball-Emma Crowe

The Senators know they can’t make a big deal about Thursday’s game being a state tournament contest.

“We’ve just got to think of it as another game,” said freshman pitcher Lex Dowdy.

Every day at practice, Jester puts up ‘1-0’ on Dover’s scoreboard. That’s to remind his players that they only have to be one-run better than their opponent to win the game.

And, indeed, the Senators have won six one-run games this season, including two in a row.

“Whoever they put on the other side, in the other dugout, it’s just one game at a time,” said Jester. “We’re looking to score one more run than the other team.”

“We’ve come a long, long, long way,” said Davis. “It’s kind of tough. I’m excited but, at the same time, we’ve got to focused and buckle down. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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