By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – Denmark High School baseball coach Bill Miller, his players, family and fans had one number on their minds entering a critical doubleheader at Freedom on Saturday.
After a frustrating 3-0 loss in Game 1, that number remained an aspiration.
It became a reality in Game 2, when the bats came to life and Jack Satori tossed a gem, giving Denmark a 10-1 victory and handing Miller his 400th varsity win at the school.
“Don’t kid yourself. There’s a lot of losses mixed in there,” he joked afterward, relieved to pull within a half game of the second-place Irish and improve to 9-4 in league play. “As far as the 400 wins go, part of it is just getting real old but it’s mostly just the fortune of being surrounded by a lot of good ball players and assistant coaches over the past twenty-something years.”
The split had other implications as well. On Sunday night, Denmark was awarded the top seed in the Division 2, Section 2, Region D playoffs. The Vikings host the Sturgeon Bay-Chilton winner on May 29. Valders earned the two seed and Luxemburg-Casco the three.
Satori allowed three hits and three walks over 6 2-3 innings, striking out five in Game 2. He also belted a two-run homer during a five-run sixth, helping to seal this one away. Cole Paplham had three hits, reached base and scored four times; and Gabe Wertel collected a pair of doubles and single, drove in three and scored twice as the Vikings (11-4 overall) cracked out 11 hits after managing just five in the opener.
“Give their pitcher credit,” Miller said of Freedom’s opening game hurler. “We’ve seen guys throw harder, but I don’t know if it was just too early in the morning or what. I thought it was a pitcher we could have hit, but for some reason we just didn’t do it.”
The tone was set in Game 1 when Satori led off the game with a base hit and Paplham drew a walk. But a double play and Gabe Wertel’s line out to second stranded Satori at third, and the Vikings got only two more runners into scoring position the rest of the way.
Jerick Czarneski was once again the tough-luck loser, allowing only one earned run and five hits over 5 1-3 innings. Freedom (9-3 in North Eastern Conference play pending a scheduled doubleheader with Fox Valley Lutheran concluded after newspaper deadlines) didn’t exactly sting the ball against Czarneski, parlaying an infield hit, a seeing-eye single and another infield hit into a 1-0 lead in the third.
Czarneski pitched around a one-out double in the fifth, aided by Brennen Miller’s nifty backhanded snag of a hard grounder behind second.
But a walk, an error, a sacrifice and a throwing error plated two more in the sixth for Freedom. Denmark’s other two scoring chances came in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Wertel reached on an infield hit with one out, and Jacob Engelbrecht beat out an infield single with two outs. Both were stranded.
Wertel singled with two outs in the sixth and stole second but was again stranded.
“I thought we mostly played good defense and had a lot of opportunities to make plays,” Miller said. “But we gave them those three runs, with a mental mistake on their first one and the throwing error on the other two. It probably