The glare is one of resolve. It’s not filled with malice or envy and it doesn’t hide an inner fear.
It’s the look of a competitor. And it’s safe to say that stare has haunted countless hitters over the last four years.
Mix it with a desire to improve and you get the perfect combination: A girl sure of her chances, who isn’t about to back down, who knows she has the ability to be as good as she wants.
That’s Jordan Dail, the Brookville hurler nearing the end of her exceptional high school career.
When she started as a freshman, opponents were baffled by the unknown pitcher barreling her way through lineups.
Now, everybody knows her name. They fear her. They are still baffled, still intimidated by that locked-in glare.
There aren’t too many young players who could describe a playoff run this way: “Oh, we can do this, for sure. We know we can.” But when Dail said that after Brookville captured yet another Conference 30 title Friday night — the program’s fourth straight — she meant it.
Maybe it’s the resolve that comes from having already won two state championships and barely losing another. Maybe it’s the result of the attention, the fact that she’s about to become a big-time college pitcher. Or maybe that resolve comes from some place deeper, a built-in sense of purpose.
“The sky’s the limit for the kid,” Brookville coach Gary Ferguson said. “My thing about Jordan is, from her freshman year until now, you look at her and say, ‘Can she get any better?’ And she’s gotten better all four years.”
The accolades are almost off the charts. She’s brought Brookville conference, regional and state titles. She’s been named VHSL player of the year in Group 3A. She has 1,022 strikeouts in her career (7th all-time in VHSL history), eclipsing the millennium mark Friday morning against Heritage during the conference semifinal game at Tunstall High.
That made for an emotional few moments.
“It was a huge relief,” Dail said of reaching the 1,000-strikeout plateau, “and I actually broke down. I started crying on the mound. The whole team came out to the mound. It was really just an emotional experience, especially after a lot of the stuff I’ve gone through to get here.”
She’s gone from unknown to unmatched. So has Brookville’s catcher Megan Dray. The longtime teammates and friends will be foes next year — Dail will be pitching for Virginia Tech, Dray catching for UNC.
But for now, there’s unfinished business. Brookville wants to reclaim its title. The Bees' throne was taken over in 2016. And they want it back.
“That was heartbreaking,” Dail said of last June’s loss to Warhill. “It was almost like we feel that state championship was ours. And to have it taken away from us, it was an eye-opener.
“And we’re like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get it back. That’s ours. We want it.’ And I think this year, we’ve proven that.”
The Bees (22-0) are on the verge of greatness. Win five more games and they will have captured three state titles in the last four years. In that span, since Dail and Dray have been on the varsity squad, Brookville is a sterling 95-5 and has the chance to reach the 100-win mark should it win this year’s state title.
“There’s almost a presence when you think of Brookville softball now,” Dail said. “And we’re blessed to be a part of it. So when you’re walking through the mall or you’re walking down the street or you’re at another game, people see ‘Brookville’ and they think ‘champions.’”
Ferguson met Dail when the southpaw was in sixth grade.
“From the first time I saw her, I was thrilled,” Ferguson said.
The same goes for VT pitching coach Angela Tincher O’Brien, herself a VHSL legend. When she saw Dail pitch, she called head coach Scot Thomas and assistant coach Justin Miller.
“‘You’ve got to get over here,’” O’Brien recalled. “Just seeing her spin and the movement she had and the control of it she had at a young age. People can spin and move the ball, but they can’t necessarily put it where they want all the time. If they have that kind of control, you know they’re going to be able to build on it as they get older.”
Dail throws a fastball, a changeup, a devastating curve that breaks in to right-handed batters and away from lefties, and has also incorporated a rise ball into her repertoire.
She’s not easily rattled in the circle. Sometimes she works slowly, other times she’s deliberate. The windup is full of motion, contained and yet bursting toward the batter.
“I’ve always had this sense that if I do my job and my team has my back, everything’s gonna pan out how I need it to pan out,” Dail said.
This year’s team, Dail added, resembles the 2014 squad, which went 27-0. That’s when the magic started, when Dail and Dray were freshmen. Back then, no one knew how dangerous the duo would become.
“They’re like, ‘Who’s this lefty pitching?’” Dail said. “’Who’s this catcher out there gunning people out?’ It’s almost like we weren’t known. And now fast-forward into senior year and everybody in the state knows who we are.”
Her understanding of the game, her confidence, her approach in the circle, all of it has evolved since 2014. Now she headlines a BHS team that appears destined for another title.
“We know what we’re capable of doing,” Dail said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”
After Brookville wrapped conference play Friday night, the pitcher took a few minutes to reflect on her career. With No. 1,000 in the books and June approaching, that was only natural.
“Any high school student’s going to be going through a lot of stuff, either in school or at home or with friends, even relationships,” she said. “So just going through all of that and still having to be focused in the game and having to produce for your team, it’s tough for anyone.
“But I had a few particular incidents, they could have completely changed the way that my career has turned out. For everything to go the way it has, I’m just so unbelievably blessed, especially with Coach Ferg, he’s helped me the whole way, and with Megan behind the plate. I’m so grateful because it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”