By Alex Strouf for The Denmark News
The only shutout of Denmark’s season came at the worst time it could have, as the Lady Vikes fell to conference foe Oconto Falls in a regional final game played in Denmark, 5-0.
Regular season conference champion Denmark found its stellar defense rocked early, as the Panthers’ Kaelyn Allen rocked a solo home run in the first inning to give Oconto Falls an early lead. She followed that up with a two-run shot in the second inning, and that was the beginning of the end for Denmark.
In the top of the third, three hits and two runs made it 5-0, and that’s all the Panthers needed to hoist their first regional title since 2014.
“We told them to stay positive. We’ve been down before and we’ve made comebacks,” said Denmark head coach Mike Vakselis of the early 5-0 deficit. “We just needed to keep our composure and keep chipping away.”
Offensively, Denmark, who had the top three batters (by batting average) in the Northeastern Conference, were only able to scrounge up five hits throughout the entirety of the game.
Oconto Falls senior pitcher Josie Tolzmann allowed five hits and only one walk to get the win. Vakselis had high praise for the first-team all-conference pitcher.
“Tolzmann has been good all season, she’s a first-team pitcher for a reason,” said Vakselis. “She hit her spots, but I thought we could’ve been more patient and take the ball the other way, but you have to tip the cap off to her and her defense made some really tough plays.”
A pursuit of a third straight regional championship fell short for the Lady Vikes, but the résumé for the four seniors is quite impressive: a conference championship, three regional championship appearances, two sectional championship appearances, a sectional championship, and Denmark’s first state appearance since 1997. Not too shabby.
“They’re huge, we just talked about it in the huddle,” Vakselis said. “All the accomplishments we’ve had, all the games we’ve won. All the credit goes to them for the last three years. They were basically the driving force and got us to where we are.”
Despite the loss, Vakselis is optimistic moving forward.
“They got our program going in the right direction, and I think it’s going to stay that way.”