By KELLY FENTON
The Denmark News
DENMARK – When Luxemburg-Casco gave Jack Satori a second, then a third chance in the fourth inning, he made them pay.
When the umpire appeared to give Reece Piontek a second chance in the eighth inning, he did the same.
Three pitches after thinking he had been rung up on a called third strike – he even took a half-step toward the dugout — Piontek delivered a game-winning, walk-off sacrifice fly that scored Brennen Miller from third base and the Denmark Vikings escaped with a tense 7-6 first-round victory in the Division 2 playoffs on Thursday afternoon in Denmark.
“Just trying to put it in play and see what happens,” Piontek said. “You just have to stay in there and swing at strikes and do what you can do.”
Denmark took advantage of wild pitches, passed balls, hit batsmen and, in Jack Satori’s case in the fourth, two misplayed foul pops that kept his at-bat alive and ended with an RBI single that eventually also resulted in Jerick Czarneski’s two-out RBI hit when the Vikings took a 4-2 lead.
The Spartans, though, sent nine to the plate and scored four to take a 6-4 lead in the fifth. After the Vikings rallied with two in the sixth to tie it, they left the game-winning run stranded at second with two chances to end it in the seventh. That would be Denmark’s 10th stranded runner, with seven of those left in scoring position.
“The whole game it was getting guys to third with less than two outs and we weren’t getting those guys in,” said Denmark head coach Bill Miller. “But Reece had a good at-bat. That one pitch was real close. We were actually thinking about bunting him there, but their pitcher was pretty wild so we weren’t sure he’d get a pitch he could handle.”
Brennan Genz, who picked up the win with 3 2-3 innings of masterful, one-hit shutout ball, cruised through a 1-2-3 eighth before Denmark loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom half on a Miller walk, a Czarneski single and a hit-by-pitch of Kenny Satori.
Travis Wellner lined out softly to third and the Spartans’ fourth pitcher of the afternoon got ahead of Piontek 1-2. The next pitch was just off the outside corner, though Piontek had already accepted his fate and made a move toward the dugout.
Much to the vociferous displeasure of the Spartan faithful, it was called ball two. After running the count full, Piontek ripped a line shot to center, easily deep enough to score Miller and give the Vikings another shot at Wrightstown in the regional semis at North Eastern Conference champion Wrightstown on Tuesday.
The victory avenged last year’s season-ending 4-3 loss to Luxemburg-Casco in the regional final when the Spartans scored two in the seventh.
With the wind blowing out at gale force at times on Thursday, the Spartans belted a pair of home runs to account for three of their runs. Denmark jumped to a 2-0 first-inning lead. A one-out walk to Miller, who reached base four times, a wild pitch and an RBI single by Czarneski, who reached base in all five of his plate appearances and had four hits, made it 1-0. Czarneski scored on Wellner’s two-out double off the base of the fence in left-center.
But Luxemburg-Casco took got a home run from Noah Lindsley and took advantage of an error to tie it on a two-out double. In the fourth, Genz and Gabe Wertel singled and scored on base hits by Jack Satori and Czarneski to reclaim a 4-2 lead. Lance Tebon belted a two-run homer to tie it in the fifth, the first of five straight Spartan hits that eventually procured them a 6-4 lead. Genz came on in relief to stop the bleeding, leaving two stranded with a ground out and a strike out. Genz walked two and struck out four over 3 2-3 innings.
“Brennan did a real good job for us,” Miller said. “He’s been in that role all year. He just comes in and throws strikes. They have some good sticks over there, but we were able to go to different guys and Brennan Genz came through.
“We don’t have that shutdown guy, but everyone has their strengths.”
Denmark finished with 15 hits, with Czarneski collecting four and Jack Satori, Miller, Wellner and Genz getting two apiece. Miller scored three times.
Miller allowed three earned runs and seven hits over 4 1-3 innings, striking out four.
Denmark split with Wrightstown last month, handing them one of their three league losses, 8-2, on April 26.
“We beat them pretty good last time,” Piontek said. “We got the bats going pretty good so we’re confident we can pull it out.”