It started with a hunch -- and the shameless hope it could carry this column.
Now, though, if anyone asks, let's just call it ace reporting. It'll be our secret.
I talk with many baseball coaches each season, as you might guess, in person and on the phone.
Recently it struck me that I've spent many of those conversations this year commiserating with coaches over hard-luck losses.
I mean, a lot. Way more often than usual.
So on that hunch (and with fingers-crossed as this column had a Wednesday night deadline) I did some auditing Wednesday afternoon, and I was shocked (read: stoked) by what I discovered.
Thirty-one percent of the games played by teams in The Daily Item coverage area had been decided by one or two runs, my own definition of a close game.
That's nearly one-third of all the games played through Tuesday (47 of 153).
Wait. It gets better.
The close games played by Valley teams in the Heartland Athletic Conference equaled 39 percent (40 of 104).
Narrow the focus to the six local Heartland-I squads (Danville, Midd-West, Mifflinburg, Milton, Selinsgrove and Shikellamy) and the figure jumps to a whopping 49 percent. That's right, half of the games played by HAC-I teams from the Valley were decided by one or two runs.
What's more, Valley teams are struggling in the close games; they're 20-27 overall (HAC and Tri-Valley League); 19-21 in the HAC alone; and 11-17 in HAC-I.
Danville is 3-2 in close games, but the Ironmen lost their last two such games, by two runs at Williamsport and 2-1 to Loyalsock.
"You can find a silver lining in that we went toe-to-toe with a defending district champion that returned everybody," Ironmen coach Devin Knorr said after the Loyalsock game. "The fact of the matter is, they don't give you half of a win for being right there with them. That's one I hope we don't look back on in a few weeks and wish we had another shot at it."