The Hannibal Hoots loaded the bases in the ninth inning Sunday but came up just short in a 2-1 loss to Danville at Clemens Field.

Hannibal Hoots manager Clayton Hicks is not settling for moral victories.

But the skipper knows his team is right on the cusp of turning the corner.

The Hoots loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning but came up just short in a 2-1 loss to visiting Danville at Clemens Field Sunday afternoon. 

Aaron Goecks dumped a pinch-hit RBI single with one out in the final frame to give the Hoots a chance. But the hosts could not draw even, as a popout and a strikeout ended the game with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

“Just a tough loss,” Hicks said. “We seem to be losing a lot of close games. But that means we’re competitive so we just have to find a way to get over the hump.”

Josh Lane and Dylan Dodd started the Hoots’ rally in the ninth with back-to-back singles.

Zak Whalin was hit by a pitch to load the bases after a strikeout. 

Despite the tying run being in scoring position for Goecks' single, Hicks mentioned the runners could not break forward until the ball landed.

“Aaron came up big in that pinch-hit situation, which is never easy to do,” Hicks explained. “But the hit was kind of a flare and our guys had to pause to make sure it got down first so we just couldn’t get the jump that we felt we wanted to push it there.”

After Dylan Marble tossed five scoreless frames, the Dans broke through with a pair of runs in the sixth to chase the Hoots starter from the mound.

Mateo Zunica and Drew Bianco recorded back-to-back one-out doubles to score the first run.

It was just the third and fourth hits of the game for the Dans.

Sky Culver hit an RBI single for Danville's final tally.

The base knock was the only hit Hoots pitcher Brendan Saak surrendered in his 3 ⅔ innings of relief. 

“The pitching was very solid overall today,” Hicks said of his two hurlers. “We got a really nice start from Dylan, he gave us a chance. Then Brendan came in and was solid to finish the game.

“As long as we continue to pitch and defend like that, we will give ourselves a chance to win ballgames.”

The loss marked the fourth straight defeat for the Hoots as they fall to 3-8 on the season.

Hicks is not overly concerned with the sub .500 record.

“Once this offense gets going, I am confident we have the ability to rattle off 8-10 wins in a row,” the Hoots coach said.

Dodd continued his torrid start to the summer. The lefty collected two of the Hoots' six hits in the loss. Dodd is now hitting .433 on the season.

“He is a great kid and the sky is the limit for him,” Hicks said of Dodd. “I am excited to be able to coach him at this stage in his career.”

Steven Washilewski earned the win for Danville. The southpaw allowed just two hits and fanned nine batters in six scoreless frames.

Hannibal is scheduled to play at Danville (6-5) on Monday.