NEWPORT NEWS — Friday's Peninsula District softball showdown between Gloucester and Menchville was anything but ordinary. But after an eventful two hours, part of which Monarchs coach Tim Dragone played under protest, the Dukes came away with a 5-1 win and what looks to be an insurmountable lead in the standings.
Makayla Jenkins scattered six hits and the Dukes (13-0, 12-0 PD) got a huge defensive play in the sixth inning. Gloucester is two games ahead of the Monarchs and Kecoughtan in the loss column.
Dukes coach Red Lindsay bristles at any talk of the regular season being over. Dragone says his team still has a "fighting chance," but in the next breath admits "I don't see that team getting beat twice."
True, Gloucester was sound at the plate (eight hits), on the base paths (Hannah Joyce went from first to third on a sacrifice bunt), and in the field.
The play of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning with Menchville trailing 2-0. Bria Mizell hit a slicing ball down the line, which Gloucester right fielder Noodle Allen appeared to misjudge — perhaps due to the sun.
Kelsey Sweeney easily scored from first base, but Allen fired to Hannah Joyce at shortstop, who relayed to Alexis Mielnik at third base for the out.
"That was a huge play by Noodle," Lindsay said. "Incredibly huge. Otherwise, all they need is a ground ball to tie."
Mizell didn't help herself by coming into third standing up.
"I was halfway down the line waving Kelsey home, and I couldn't get back in time," Dragone said. "I need to get back quicker and tell her to slide."
But the strangest, and most-talked-about, moment came in the top of that inning.
When Joyce came to the plate with a runner at second and two outs, Dragone walked out to talk with Mizell. It was his third charged visit, and the plate umpire ruled he then had to replace Mizell as pitcher.
Dragone said he believed the pitcher must be removed on the fourth visit. But according to the National Federation of State High School Associations Rule Book, "After three charged conferences in a seven-inning game … the pitcher shall be removed as pitcher for the duration of the game."
After telling the umpire he was playing under protest, Dragone brought Darby Deanhofer in from right field. She got out of the inning when Dez're Maynora was thrown out trying to steal third base.
But in the next inning, Deanhofer walked three and gave up two hits, including a single to right that Mizell lost in the sun. The Dukes' lead went from 2-1 to 5-1.
Dragone stressed that the controversy shouldn't take away from Gloucester's victory.
"Hat's off to them," he said. "Makayla pitched a good game. She jammed us and got a lot of pop-outs. And Hannah played a great game at short. She showed her skill set today and made a lot of tweener balls look routine."
As for the two-game lead with six to go, Lindsay isn't ready to call the race over.
"We have a very tough game against Kecoughtan on Tuesday, and we will prepare for them on Monday," he said.
GLOUCESTER 5, MENCHVILLE 1Gloucester1100003 — 580Menchville0000010 — 160
WP: Jenkins (8-0). LP: Mizell (8-2). Standouts: Gloucester, Joyce 1-2 (2 runs), Jenkins 2-3 (1 RBI), Maynora 2-3 (1 run), Allen 1-2 (2 RBI); Menchville, Mizell 1-3 (double, 1 RBI). Records: Gloucester 13-0, 12-0; Menchville 9-2, 9-2.