Gloucester pitcher Taylor Chain had the kind of season that would be immortalized on softball cards - if there were any.
The 18-year-old, who lives in Gloucester City, crafted a personal record of 20-1 with 18 shutouts, seven no-hitters, and four perfect games.
Her ERA was .049. She struck out 273 batters and helped herself with the bat, hitting .500.
But the biggest accomplishment in her eyes was when the Lions (29-1) won the Group 1 state championship last Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Saddle Brook at Toms River North.
"That state championship game is a memory that will last a lifetime," Chain said.
The desire to win a state crown was what motivated Chain and fellow seniors Tabby Dick and Jill Stafford, who pitched most of the other games.
Chain is The Inquirer's softball player of the year in South Jersey.
"We always wanted a state championship," said Chain, who had heard about the Lions' championship teams of 2005, 2001 and 2000. "This was the last chance for the seniors. Since the beginning [of the season] we said, 'This was the last chance, and everybody give your all.' "
Chain took that attitude to the circle, from which she went 14-0 in her first 14 outings and did not yield a run.
The run registered in the next game with arch-rival Gloucester Catholic at the Ponytail League Complex in Gloucester City, where an estimated 1,000 fans gathered on May 16 to see the two local teams play for the unofficial city softball crown.
Gloucester Catholic won, 1-0, on a controversial call by an umpire. Furthermore, Chain had a sore pectoral muscle that had sidelined her for five days, and she wasn't scheduled to pitch.
"She didn't worry about one call from an umpire," Gloucester coach Dave Light said. "She was more concerned with pitching a complete game. She didn't want to come out.
"She accepted [the loss]. She didn't expect to go scoreless the whole season. She knew that it was a matter of time."
Chain said her shoulder was good enough for her to make the decision to pitch that day, and she had no regrets other than losing to the team's biggest rival.
"I'd rather lose then than in states," she said.
Light said he knew that Chain would have a good season after last year, when she recorded an 11-4 record, an improvement over the previous season. However, he never predicted such a strong start.
"She is the greatest pitcher in Gloucester High School history," said Light, who has been the head coach for 12 years.
Chain twirled six different pitches throughout the season, but her most effective were the curveball and the screwball to the inside and outside corners of home plate.
Saddle Brook struck out 11 times looking at her curveball and seven times swinging at her screwball last Saturday.
"Tom taught me that," Chain said, referring to Tom Besser, a private pitching instructor. "He showed me how to throw each pitch. He made me what I am today."
The pitcher also credited Light for helping her and the others to develop the skills necessary to get to the championship game.
In the fall, Chain will take that expertise to Stony Brook University on Long Island, where she has committed to play softball.
"I have my summer workout schedule from my college," the honors student said. "Maybe I'll study nursing while I'm there."
And maybe she will have a phenomenal college career as a pitcher.