The Lady Tigers looked nervous as they took the field on Aug. 3 against the visiting Denmark Danes and, despite flashes of brilliance throughout the game, quickly fell in four innings by a final score of 14-1 to open the 2019 fall campaign in a game that answered a lot of questions according to assistant coach Logan Allen.
“I think the first game of the season is very important,” Allen said. “It sets the tone for the year and answers a lot of questions.”
Featuring sophomore Olivia Martinez in her varsity pitching debut and anchored by returning starter Bella Henson at shortstop the Lady Tigers debuted a team looking to rebuild after the loss of six seniors to graduation in 2018.
Martinez fired a strike to start the game, but an infield error on the second pitch opened the door for a Danes rally that brought them around the order and gave them a 4-0 lead before the Lady Tigers could rally to end the inning.
“I know that every time I take the mound, I am going to have to throw it as hard as a I can,” Martinez said. “The other team is always going to hit the ball. You have to expect your defense to have your back.”
After their first inning jitters, the Dawson County defense settled down and gave fans a glimpse of their potential as they shut down the Denmark offense over two-innings to keep the team within striking distance as the game headed into the fourth inning.
Unfortunately, the Lady Tigers were stymied at the plate by Danes starting pitcher Gajdik who allowed only two hits and gathered seven strikeouts over four innings in her near shutout performance. Gajdik was also instrumental at the plate for Denmark, going 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs.
The aggressive game-plan put in place by Danes’ head coach David Smart paid off as his line-up hit around the order for a second time in the game, and almost a second time in the fourth inning, to put 10 points on the board and move the Lady Tigers in danger of the mercy rule.
According to GHSA regulations “the game will end when: (a) a team has completed three turns at bat and is fifteen (15) runs behind. (b) a team has completed four turns at bat and is twelve (12) runs behind. (c) a team has completed five or more turns at bat and is eight (8) runs behind.”
Trailing 14-0 the 2019 Lady Tigers once again showed their character as they rallied behind Henson’s lead-off walk to drive the shortstop around the bases and break through the shut-out with a single run in their final at-bat.
Head Coach Jimmy Pruett, talking with his team after the 14-1 loss, cited that final run as an example of something to be proud of on the day, and went on to remind the Lady Tigers that it was only game one and there is a long way to go this season.
“These are early, non-region games. We will use them to evaluate who goes where,” Pruett said. “This is a brand-new team, and these early games will help us work on that.”
Dawson County played the first road game of the season when they visited Hall County on Aug. 5 to face-off with the Chestatee War Eagles. Results were unavailable at press time.