On Tuesday, Denmark’s softball team had the honor of playing the first athletic event in school history. Or maybe it was more of a burden.
Denmark principal Heather Gordy threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Athletic director Jamie Corr stood in front of home plate and welcomed the crowd in attendance at Fowler Park to Denmark athletics. The pressure was on.
“There was a little bit of extra expectation,” Denmark softball coach David Smart said. “Of course, we hadn’t played and were unsure of what to expect. They were uptight and nervous, and not real sure about how it was going to come out.
“I brought them down and I talked to them. I said, ‘This is the same game you played when you were five or six. Nothing’s different. The ball’s the same size, the bases are the same, everything is the exact same. Just go out and play.’”
Any jitters the Danes had in their systems quickly vanished, with Denmark taking advantage of mistakes to score 10 runs in its first-ever inning of competition – more than enough to take an eventual 10-0 win over Johns Creek in a mercy-rule shortened five frames.
Freshman Taylor Gajdik received the honor of being the first starting pitcher in school history, and she began her night well, punching out two batters before Denmark took its first turn through its batting order. A diving catch at third by Jessie Denardo for the second out elicited some early ‘oohs’ from the crowd.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous,” Gajdik said. “I was very mentally prepared. I was just ready to go out there and (get one) for the team.”
Then the rout began. Denardo and Morgan Kilmer each reached base on walks to open the bottom of the first. Kilmer and Denardo scored the first runs in team history on a three base error that sent Gajdik all the way to third. Bri Vanderhoff then added the first hit in team history, a double, to send Gajdik home from third and give the Danes a 3-0 lead.
It was the only hit the Danes connected on in the first, but five more walks, a wild pitch, two hit batters and a fielding error at shortstop allowed seven more runners to cross the plate. Johns Creek needed 16 plate appearances and a pitching change to finally get its third out.
“I was very relieved,” Gajdik said. “I thought I didn’t have (as much) pressure. I could just relax a lot more. I was dancing and just having a lot of fun.”
The Danes loaded the bases again in the second, but could not get any runs across. Gajdik got into some trouble in the third, with the Gladiators loading the bases with one out, but she struck out two straight to get out of the jam.
Denmark only had three hits for the game, but Gajdik’s performance assured that it would be all her team needed. She finished with 10 strikeouts, allowing two hits and a walk.
After the game, the entire team signed a game ball as a memento of Denmark’s first athletic victory, set to be displayed in the school’s trophy case. For Gajdik, it’s quite the way to start her varsity softball career.
“I think it’s very exciting and very overwhelming,” she said. “You make history and it’s kind of hard to just forget that. I’m not ever going to forget this game.”