South County softball pitcher Chelsey Dunham doesn't simply strike out batters, she overpowers them.
Her pitches release with such velocity that Dunham isn't the only one with a bag of ice wrapped attached to her arm after games, catcher Michelle Boynton said she has to ice her catching hand.
One-by-one, opponents come up to bat looking for their chance to put one past the three time all-state pitcher, but with machine-like efficiency Dunham sends them back to the dugout kicking dirt in frustration.
"I like to play around with the batters," she said. "But, not too much. I want to sit them down quick."
Batters might hope fatigue would set in, removing her from the game, but the senior is accustomed to spending an entire evening on the mound.
Dunham has pitched every inning in all eight games this season.
When South County head coach Al Thompson was asked if he ever worries about tiring out her arm, he laughed "Are you kidding me? No, I don't worry about it."
Dunham isn't worried either. She's used to putting her arm through complete game after complete game.
"I pitched so much over the summer with my travel team," she said. "I'd play two games in a day, and I'd pitch both of them. I'm trained for it."
The rigorous schedule hasn't slowed her down either.
Dunham’s ability to strike out batters is a major reason the Stallions (8-0) are enjoying yet another dominating season.
"She is the defensive drive of this team," Thompson said. "She's a really good pitcher and there are eight other girls on the team who are very good, too."
What sets Dunham apart from the rest?
"She's got a work ethic that most pitchers don't have," Thompson said. "She works every day of the year, rain or shine, it doesn't matter."
There’s also her life-long dedication to playing the position.
"I started pitching when I was 8-years old," she said. "I pitch about every day. I take maybe one day off in a week."
All the practice and training Dunham has put in during the offseason is best displayed when the senior finds herself in a bind.
On April 7, against the Lake Braddock softball team, the Stallions were unable to produce much offense for four innings.
As the first, second and third innings rolled by, the score stood at zero apiece, but her team's inability to score right away didn't fluster Dunham.
While the South County bats began to finally warm-up, Dunham struck out 12 batters en route to an 8-0 win and never showed signs of wavering.
"The confidence [on the mound] just comes from all the experience I have," she said. "I just mix up the pitches and stay ahead of them."
But for all the noise Dunham has made in the Northern Region as a pitcher, one goal eludes the Stallions — a state championship.
So far, the 2010 season has started much as 2009 did with dominating win after dominating win. The 2009 season, however, ended with a 2-0 loss to Loudoun Valley in the state tournament.
Dunham said she doesn't think about the loss while she's on the mound, but memories creep in during classes and practice.
"I just focus on the batter and the next batter during a game," she said. "But when I leave the field, I think about [the state loss]."
It's not surprising that Dunham and her teammates have set a goal to win the Virginia state title. With the Stallions roaring through their regular season schedule, Dunham knows her team has a chance.
"I think we're well on our way to [winning the title]," she said.
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Filmed and edited by Reed S. Albers.