South County pitcher Kyra Ketch took a line drive off her right shin against West Potomac on March 25, sending the junior to the ground in agony.
The pain provided a convenient excuse for Ketch if the pressure was too much and she wanted to come out of the game. It was her first varsity start in the circle and she was the first South County pitcher to face a Patriot District opponent since the 2010 graduation of former standout Chelsey Dunham, who struck out more than 1,000 batters in four years as a Stallion and went on to play at Yale. It was the bottom of the third inning and now was the time to get out if the pressure was too much.
"She took that ball off the shin," South County head coach Gary Dillow said, "and the first thing she said when we got out there is, ‘I want to keep pitching.’ That’s her first varsity start."
Ketch shook off the discomfort and went on to hurl a six-inning, complete game shutout as the Stallions defeated the Wolverines 10-0 at WPHS. Dillow said he plans to rotate Ketch and freshman Rebecca Martin in the circle, but on this cold Friday night in Alexandria, Ketch pitched like the staff ace. The head coach acknowledged there would be pressure on whomever followed Dunham as South County starting pitcher, but he was pleased with how Ketch handled it.
"It’s a lot of pressure," he said. "It’s funny. When we were handing out uniforms, neither one of them wanted anything to do with No. 4 because [Dunham wore it]. I can’t say that I blame them. I wouldn’t want to wear that number after Chelsey wore it for four years and did everything that she did.
"[Ketch] certainly upheld the pitching legacy for South County tonight. She pitched her tail off."
Ketch worked her way out of bases-loaded jams in the first and fourth innings and stranded a runner on third base in the sixth. No. 7 said she’s going to be herself rather than trying to live up to what Dunham accomplished at South County.
"There’s a little bit of pressure and a little bit of stress, but it’s fortunate that I get to be on a good team with good coaches that have coached such great teams before," Ketch said. … "I’m not going to try to compare myself to Chelsey Dunham because she’s a completely different person. I don’t want to hold myself up to her expectations. I’m just going to try my best and be happy with me."
Well, there is one way she’d like to emulate Dunham.
"I’d like," Ketch said, "to keep up the Stallion tradition of winning districts."
Offensively, the Stallions got a lift from senior Julia Kastner, who broke a scoreless tie in the third inning with a two-run home run to center field. Freshman Haylea Geer added a run-scoring single in the inning.
South County lost seven seniors from last year’s team that started 25-0 before losing to McLean in the region semifinals. Four days after blanking West Potomac, the Stallions’ inexperience finally caught up to them, when they lost to Lake Braddock 12-2, the program’s first district loss since the early part of the 2007 season. South County (2-1) will look to bounce back on April 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Woodson.