Jennifer Dillie and catcher Carrie Kordonowy, Dayton High School's electrifying softball battery, has jump-started the Dust Devils to a 15-1 record this season.
The tandem is so powerful that the Dust Devils have a realistic chance to shock the other 3A softball teams in Nevada this season and capture the school's first state championship.
One only has look at each player's statistics this season to understand how the duo has helped the Dust Devils to their near-perfect record. Both players will be in action today when Dayton hosts Yerington in an important Division II doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.
- Dillie, a senior right-handed pitcher, upped her record to 14-1 after she pitched a perfect game against Whittell on Thursday. After 75 innings of work, she has an ERA of 3.26. She has struck out 129 batters while allowing only 43 hits this season.
Dillie was literally unhittable in a recent two-game stretch against Lovelock and North Tahoe when she pitched consecutive no-hitters against the Mustangs and Lakers.
At the plate, Dillie's stats are just as impressive. She has an average of .604 (29 hits in 48 plate appearances) with four doubles, a triple and 21 RBIs. She has also scored 13 runs this season while striking out only twice.
- Kordonowy, the team's senior catcher, has the Dust Devils' best power numbers. As of Wednesday, she was hitting .585 (24-for-45), had an on-base average of .638, and had the Ruthian slugging percentage of 1.024. Of her 24 hits, she has 11 doubles, two triples and one home run.
Kordonowy has also been spectacular defensively. In her 77 innings behind the plate, she has committed just two errors and allowed one passed ball. During a three-game stretch last week, she threw out all three runners who tried to steal against her.
"As far as a pitcher-catcher combo goes, I think they're the best we've had in school history," said Dayton's Jeanne Utterback, now in her 14th season of coaching the Dust Devils. "We've had good combos before, and even sent players onto scholarship programs, but these two have been working really, really hard for four years, and it's showing and paying off for them this season.
"Defensively, they're awesome. Offensively, they're a huge threat too."
Except for a portion of their freshmen season, when Dillie was called up to the varsity and Kordonowy remained on the junior varsity, Kordonowy has been Dillie's primary catcher for all four years of high school. The two players have been acquainted for much longer, however, and are able to trace their friendship to elementary school, when both were 9 years old.
Four years of practicing together have created an uncanny chemistry between the two Dust Devil co-captains. Even to the point where one will finish the other's sentence.
"We've worked so long together and in so many practices that," Kordonowy began.
"It's weird and sometimes we know exactly what pitch we want to do together and we just do it," Dillie concluded.
Dillie gave Kordonowy a lot of credit for her success on the mound this spring.
"She's very important," Dillie said. "She gets in there and it's easy to pitch to her. She's great."
Dillie said she didn't think about her consecutive hitless innings streak last week during her two no-hitters. Instead, she just concentrated on one batter at a time.
"I really didn't know - I was just in there pitching," said Dillie, who has six career no-hitters for Dayton.
"I call 'em and she pitches 'em," Kordonowy said. "We're just thinking of the one batter and saying 'Yeah, that was a rise and she struck out.'"
Dillie explained the players' excellent batting averages by saying the players' concentration on defense has carried over to their at-bats.
"We're just focused when we go up to the plate," Dillie said. "If we're having a good defensive game, we'll be mentally ready to hit."
Both Dillie and Kordonowy are looking forward to a return trip to the 3A state playoffs. Dayton qualified in '99, although it didn't advance to the championship, but Dillie and Kordonowy believe the team has improved to the point where the Dust Devils can play competitively with any other 3A team.
"Our offense has really improved," Kordonowy said. "We have a new coach who has really helped us with our hitting."
That new addition to the Dust Devil varsity coaching staff is Dusti Houk, the 1988 Carson High grad who played collegiately at Hawaii Pacific.
Before the Dust Devils can worry about the state playoffs, however, Dayton needs to qualify for the Division II softball tournament. The Dust Devils can take a major step toward that goal if they can sweep - or at least split - with the Lions at home today in a doubleheader, which begins at 1 p.m.
Yerington, also enjoying an excellent start to its season with an 11-1 (6-0 division) record, promises to be extremely motivated for today's doubleheader. It was Dayton that knocked Yerington out of the Division II playoffs last season and prevented the Lions from playing in a state tournament they hosted.
"This (doubleheader) will be a good yardstick for us," said Utterback, who played at Chico State. "Yerington has a quality team and program. These games will show us exactly where we are this season and what we need to do."