Denair High came close to earning its first win of the season this week in a two-game showdown with Le Grand High on Wednesday and Friday, but late-inning slumps in both games instead led to a pair of defeats and extended the Coyote's record to 0-8.
“We are a pretty good team when we're in it, we just need to figure out how to string our innings to where it's clean baseball,” Denair head coach Shawn Stewart said.
Denair came closest to victory on Wednesday in its 8-9 loss to the Bulldogs. Despite jumping out to an early five-run lead, the Coyotes let Le Grand back into the game and led by only one run with one inning to go. In the bottom of the seventh Le Grand completed it comeback, earning a pair of runs with a squeeze play.
“We're just having trouble staying focused for the whole seven innings of the game,” Stewart said.
The Coyotes again jumped out to an early lead on Friday, scoring four runs in the top of the third inning before making it 5-3 by the bottom of the fourth. The lead didn't last for long, however, and Denair ended up falling 5-10.
“We just didn't really make plays. The theme of the year is that we hurt ourselves. We just have one or two bad innings and it ends up costing us the game,” Stewart said. “Situational baseball has been pretty tough to get consistent play on.”
Before the taking a turn for the worse in the fifth inning, Denair displayed solid effort on both offense and defense. After giving up a run in the bottom of the second inning, the Coyotes responded with an Anthony Fuller 2RBI single to take the lead. Trevor Lovelace followed with a tag-up score from third base on a fly out before Trent Howze made it 4-1 with a hit into left field good enough for a RBI double.
Denair's third-inning success continued on defense with Fuller making several plays from the shortstop position — tagging a runner out between second and third base and snatching a line drive out of the air for an out.
“He's an important piece to not only the offense but the defense. When he gets going, and he's settled in and he's relaxed and he's playing good baseball, the other kinds tend to pick up,” Stewart said.
Still, even with Fuller's play making, Denair allowed two runs with two outs on a 2RBI single from Le Grand's David Beaza. The Coyotes scored only one more run all game, a dash from Caleb Hogen from third base to home plate on a through ball, while Le Grand riddled off seven runs in the last three innings.
“Of all of our runs we've given up — we've probably given close to the mid-40's in runs — I'm thinking seven or eight runs, tops, have been earned runs,” Stewart said. “For me, it's just cleaning up the little things … settling down in the moment and realizing we don't have to do too much, we just have to make the little plays.”
Denair will now continue its search for its first win of the season next week with a pair of games against Gustine High, the first of which will be played at home on Wednesday.
“As long as we learn not to beat ourselves, we should be fine,” Stewart said.