DANVILLE — Striking out in your first at-bat can be the start of a very bad night.
For Danville Dans first baseman Chet Simoneaux, that kind of a start on Thursday night was no big deal.
In his final three plate appearances against the Quincy Gems, Simoneaux had three hits, including the game-winning two-run triple in the seventh inning as the Danville Dans equaled a Prospect League record for wins in a season (40) with a 5-2 victory.
“Early in the season, I probably would have been down on myself and frustrated with a few calls in that at-bat that I didn’t like,’’ Simoneaux said. “But, I’ve learned that you have more than one at-bat in the game and I still wanted to get three quality, maybe four, at-bats.’’
According to Dans coach Jason Watson, that has been a major change in Simoneaux over the summer.
“Early in the season, he would take his previous at-bats into his current at-bat,’’ Watson said. “When he has a clear mind, he is very effective. Whether its getting a sac fly or a double, or anything to help the team produce a run.’’
And producing runs is something that Simoneaux has done all year for Danville, which improved to 40-15 with the victory.
“That really means a lot to me because it’s an opportunity to help out my team and that’s what it’s all about for me,’’ he said.
With three more runs driven in on Thursday night, Simoneaux is now third in the Prospect League with 34 RBIs.
“I like being up in those situations,’’ he said. “My team is relying on me and I feel like I can get the job done every time for them. I’ve always liked being the go-to guy.’’
But, with those expectations that he has put on himself, it had a little bit of a negative effect in the first few weeks.
Simoneaux had just eight hits in the first 49 at-bats, as he was hitting just .163.
With some help from his coaches and a message from a teammate, Simoneaux is batting .280 since June 24th with 3 home runs and 25 RBIs.
“I’ve changed a lot,’’ he said. “I used to get down on myself a lot. The coaches have worked with me, along with my teammate Josh Miller.
“Josh has helped me out a lot. He told me to listen to Steve Springer and I try to listen to one of his messages every night before I go to sleep.’’
Steve Springer’s Web site gives baseball players pointers on the mental approach to the game, especially hitting.
“His main message is that batting average is the devil,’’ Simoneaux said. “You can square balls up in every at-bat and still go 0-for-4. There are eight defensive players out there trying to defend you and you are just one batter.
“So, I don’t worry too much about my batting average anymore.’’
Instead, he has focused on getting quality at-bats in each plate appearance and his average has climbed 81 points to .244 because of it.
“Chet is a powerful human being,’’ Watson said. “He was in a little bit of slump at the start of the year. But, he has really come around and he has come up big for us. He is a good baseball player, a good teammate and a good guy to be around.
“It’s always good to see good things happen to good people like that.’’
Watson admitted that just looking at the statistics is a mistake when dealing with Simoneaux.
“He has the tools,’’ Watson said. “If he continues to get better, the sky is the limit for him.
“Being able to produce runs has been huge for us. He wants to be the guy and he wants to be the player who picks guys up. He’s one heck of a player and I love coaching him.’’
That’s also how Watson feels about the other 23 players that suited up for Danville on Thursday night.
The Prospect League West Division Champions set a league record earlier this season with 11 straight victories and Thursday night that equaled the mark of last year’s West Virginia Miners with their 40th win. With five games remaining, the Dans have a opportunity to set a new league record.
“It’s huge for this program, organization and the community of Danville,’’ Watson said. “For our administration to put this team together is just remarkable. They got good kids, good ball players and good people off the field. That goes a long way in everyone’s eyes.
“I’m very proud of them winning 40 games and hopefully more. Because, we’re not ready for it to be over anytime soon.’’
Jake Hall went the first five innings for the Dans, allowing two runs — only one earned. After that Watson went with four relievers, each taking one inning. Jon Rashid was credited with the victory and Trey McNickle got the save.
“Jake threw it well tonight,’’ Watson said. “A couple of calls didn’t go our way in that two-run (fourth) inning, but he battled back and did a good job.
“I just told the relievers to get three outs and that’s what they did.’’
Quincy (33-22) scored its only runs of the contest in that fourth inning and the first one came on catcher Mike Wilson’s ground ball down the third-base line that appeared to Danville Dans third baseman Chad Klein to bounce fall, but the umpired called it fair and the Gems got their first run. A passed ball later in the inning produce the tying run.
Danville got a 2-0 lead in the third, when Jake Thomas, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, got the inning started with a single. He later scored on a single by Simoneaux.
In both the third and seventh innings, Klein followed Simoneaux with run-scoring at-bats. It was a sacrifice fly in the third and an RBI double in the seveth.
The Danville Dans have two home games left in the 2013 Prospect League regular season. The first of those two games will be tonight when the Dans host the Hannibal Cavemen in a 6:30 p.m. contest at Danville Stadium.
The final home game will be at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday with Danville hosts Terre Haute. That game is part of a day-night, two-city doubleheader. The Dans and the Rex will play a game at noon (Central) in Terre Haute at Bob Warn Field and then the two teams will make the trip north for the night game in Danville.
On Monday, the Danville Dans will be part of a meet-and-greet party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Danville from 5:30-7:30 p.m.