Denmark’s baseball team knew its inaugural season would be tough, but the first-ever trek through a region slate has been especially brutal.
The Danes entered Monday night with a 1-5 mark in Region 7-4A games, and while some of those losses have been one-sided, three of those defeats were by just one run, two of them coming against a Blessed Trinity team that ranks among the best in the country. Denmark needed a win against Chestatee on Monday to stay in the playoff hunt, but with a 6-3 loss to the War Eagles, their region woes continued.
“You've got to play your best when it means the most,” Denmark coach David Smart said. “This game meant a lot, and we didn't play very well. They just beat us at every facet of the game.
“We've competed (in region play), but with the exception of Flowery Branch, we haven't been able to find a way to come out on top. It's encouraging, but it's frustrating at the same time. You get that close, but being close doesn't get you anything.”
Coming oh-so-close was certainly a trend against Chestatee. The Danes outhit their opponents 8-6, but left ten runners on base, compared to the War Eagles’ three. One of Denmark's best chances to plate runners came in a scoreless second inning, when Jack Whitlock and Gray Wilson stood on second and third with just one out. Two strikeouts ended the inning, and the Danes got nothing.
“We score there, that would maybe put more pressure on them and make it a totally different ballgame,” Smart said. “That was somewhat of a pivotal point in the game.”
Despite those struggles, starter Dalton Hansard did what he could to keep Denmark (8-15, 1-6) in it by pitching three scoreless frames to start the game. He ended his night with six strikeouts over five innings, and the Danes haven’t been hesitant to lean on him lately.
“Dalton's done real well for us, especially in region play,” Smart said. “He's given us a chance every time he's gone out. He's a guy we have a lot of confidence in. He competes, eats a lot of innings, throws a lot of strikes and does a great job for us.”
Chestatee eventually got its big hits, though, taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth off two doubles and a wild pitch. Wilson gave Denmark its first run in the bottom half to make it 3-1, singling up the middle to bring in Matthew Cassandra. He finished 3-for-4 with a team-leading two RBIs, and he’s been another positive through Denmark’s region run.
“I've just been seeing the ball well lately, better than normal,” Wilson said. “I've been tracking pitches better and everything, and I'm confident right now. I'd say the past few games have been pretty good for me.”
The War Eagles continued to take advantage of their scoring opportunities late, scoring three over the sixth and seventh to make it 6-1. A couple of walks and RBI hits from Wilson and Logan DeLong amounted to a two-out seventh inning rally, but Denmark couldn't keep it going for long enough.
After Monday's loss, the Danes will need some help if they're to make the playoffs. With four region games left, all they can do is focus on themselves.
"Obviously, it is a little bleaker, but we're just going to go out and try to win the rest of the games we've got and see what happens from there," Wilson said.