A four-hit, one-walk shutout is impressive enough. Getting one against the hottest-hitting team in the district in your first appearance on the mound this season is, to use Gloucester softball coach Red Lindsay's term, "outstanding."
Senior Taylor Distefano, starting in place of Makayla Jenkins in a battle of unbeatens, had maybe the signature game of her career in a 3-0 win over Kecoughtan Friday afternoon. She retired the side in four of the seven innings and got two remarkable defense plays to keep the Warriors from getting something going.
Jenkins has developed tendinitis in her left (pitching) elbow, but she's been cleared to play first base. Distefano, the starting pitcher her first two years, got her first start against a team that had scored 58 runs in its first three games.
"I was nervous," she said. "But this wouldn't have happened without (my teammates) behind me."
Especially shortstop Hannah Joyce and right fielder Cynthia "Noodle" Allen, without whose plays the game could have ended very differently.
After Distefano had thrown a no-hitter through four innings, Kecoughtan (3-1, 3-1 Peninsula District) loaded the bases with one out. After Distefano struck out Brittany York for the second out, she had to face Warriors' lead-off hitter Allyson Babinsack, who drove in 10 runs in Kecoughtan's first two games.
Babinsack hit a soft liner off the end of her bat into no-man's land between the mound and second base. Joyce, playing deep, came in for the diving catch to end the inning.
Asked if she had gotten a good jump on it, Joyce laughed.
"No," she said. "I was standing there for a while, and then I noticed nobody was going for it. Then I went for it and ended up catching it."
Distefano then went to the ground and wrapped both arms around Joyce's neck.
"The reason I attacked her," Distefano said, "is because I realized it probably should have been my ball."
With Gloucester still leading 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Maddy Morris led off with liner to center that skipped past the Dukes' Shelby Alto. But Allen, the right fielder, was backing up the play.
She picked up the ball near the fence and threw to Joyce, who relayed to third baseman Gabby Zarichny. Morris was out.
"That was an incredible play," Lindsay said. "The ball was hit, and Noodle never quit."
Gloucester (4-0, 4-0) put plenty of pressure on Morris, Kecoughtan's starter on the mound, with eight base runners (six hits, two walks) through the first five innings.
All around, it was a complete performance by the defending champions. And nobody was more shocked than Lindsay.
"Winning and losing will always take care of itself," he said. "I just wanted us to play well, and the way we practiced yesterday, I didn't think we'd come out and play well. We had 14 kids giving half an effort, which gives us seven kids playing hard."
On Friday, they all did.
"We're gamers," Joyce said.
GLOUCESTER 3, KECOUGHTAN 0
Gloucester;001;110;0—3 8 0
Kecoughtan;000;000;0—0 4 1
WP: Distefano (1-0). LP: Morris (1-1). Standouts: Gloucester, Joyce 2-4 (3B, run), Miller 2-4 (RBU), Allen 2-3 (run). Kecoughtan, Morris 2-3 (2B). Records: Gloucester 4-0, 4-0; Kecoughtan 3-1, 3-1.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun