By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – Believe it or not, there was not that much difference between Denmark’s 6-3 loss to Marinette in the first game and its 12-0 win in the second game of a doubleheader in Denmark on Friday evening.
What it came down to, to a large extent, was the line drives the Vikings fired into the gloves of the Marines in Game 1 finally started finding the gaps in Game 2.
Despite the loss in the opener, Denmark was able to maintain its position atop the North Eastern Conference over Oconto Falls and Luxemburg-Casco.
Unlucky hitting wasn’t the only difference between the two games on Friday. Denmark got a solid pitching performance by Tori Dellemann and Grace Nys in the nightcap, shutting down a loaded Marinette lineup and limiting the Marines to just one hit in the five-inning affair. Nys, the staff ace, couldn’t be there for the first game or the start of the second game, but pitched the final three innings of the nightcap, striking out four and walking one. She entered with the Vikings leading 3-0 before they added four in the fourth and five in the fifth.
“The first game we were a little overconfident because we were coming off that (5-1 win over second-place Luxemburg-Casco on Thursday),” said Denmark third baseman Kate O’Brien. “And they were right there where we were hitting them, and it was frustrating. We definitely needed to come back together as a team for that second game. We needed that really bad if we’re going to get a conference title.”
O’Brien carried the big stick on Friday, especially in the second game when she belted a single, a double and a triple and drove in five runs. She also doubled and walked and scored two of the three Denmark runs in the first contest.
“I’m just hoping to keep my confidence going,” said O’Brien, who came into the game batting .476 with nine RBI in league play. “I’m counting on my coaches to keep me up and I just need to keep hitting the pitches I need to hit. I was definitely ready to hit that triple. My confidence was really high today.”
Shortstop Sophia Kinjerski also came up big, playing her usual dynamic defense and flashing her cannon arm time and again, and going 3 of 4 with three runs and two RBI in the nightcap. In the first game, she went hitless, but lined out hard twice.
“Sophia is amazing,” O’Brien said. “I wouldn’t want to play next to anyone else. She keeps our attitudes high. After that first game, she was so positive, and she knew we were going to win that second one.”
Early Deficit for Denmark
Marinette, which dropped to 6-4 in league play, had been feasting on the bottom of the league of late and brought in a lineup featuring six batters hitting .360 or better as well as a pitcher with a 3-0 mark and a 1.24 ERA. They got to Dellemann early in the opener for two runs on three hits in the first inning, then got her for three more runs in the third, thanks to Tatum Ihde’s three-run blast to right-center.
Other than those couple of mishaps, Dellemann pitched solidly, setting down the Marines in order in the second and fourth, and allowing only three more hits and one more run over the final four innings. She struck out five and walked one.
Denmark tried to claw back. Doubles by O’Brien and Hailey Aschenbrenner whittled the deficit to 2-1 in the second. In a rare occurrence in the fourth, Denmark was retired on three pitches, first-pitch fly outs by Caitlyn Duckart and O’Brien and a first-pitch ground out by Lexi Penovich, as the Vikings took an aggressive approach at the plate all afternoon.
Trailing 5-1 in the sixth, Denmark came to life, starting with a leadoff single by Derricks. After Duckart lined out to right – one of the Vikings five lineouts in the game, to go along with three deep flyouts – O’Brien walked and Penovich lined a two-run double to left-center to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Derricks finished with two of Denmark’s five hits.
Big Bounce-back in Nightcap
Denmark jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2. A Kinjerski double, a Derricks single, and Kailyn Petitjean’s two-out infield hit produced the run. Penovich made it 2-0 in the second when she reached on an error, stole second, moved to third on Aschenbrenner’s grounder and came home on a wild pitch.
In the third, Caitlyn Duckart drew a two-out walk and scored following singles by Petitjean and O’Brien.
Dellemann worked around a leadoff infield single in the second, aided by a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play when Aschenbrenner gunned down a runner at second.
The Vikings blew it open in the fourth when they sent nine to the plate. Aschenbrenner singled and pinch runner Phoebe Jensen stole second. Jensen scored on Nys’ single. Abby Maricque and Kinjerski followed with singles and Duckart was safe on an error to score Maricque. O’Brien ripped a two-run double to center to make it 7-0.
Denmark sent nine more to the plate in the fifth, scoring five. Kinjerski delivered a two-run double and eventually scored on a wild pitch. After Duckart reached on an error and Petitjean walked, O’Brien capped off her 5-RBI game with a two-run triple to right.
O’Brien is one of five newcomers in the lineup this season, tasked with replacing solid hitters who helped the Vikings reach the state tournament last June. She replaced a third baseman who was one of the best hitters on the team.
“(The first-year players) all definitely have more confidence in ourselves now,” O’Brien said. “For me, filling in for Taylor Ullman at third, I was pretty nervous. Those are big shoes to fill. And then I had an injury that kept me out for a while. But I’ve been working hard to get back in there.”