BY AARON PATTERSON
DANVILLE — This year’s Danville Dans team will go down as one of the most special to grace the field at Danville Stadium. Fans routinely show up at the Stadium each night to support them, and the players have described the summer experience like none other.
Earlier this season, the Dans set a Prospect League record with 11 consecutive wins, and later clinched the West Division title. But when Drew Buddle made one final toss to first baseman Spencer Herrmann Saturday night to record the final out of Danville’s 1-0 win over Terre Haute, the home dugout emptied and a massive celebration began.
With one game left in the regular season today at Hannibal, the Dans had the satisfaction of winning their final regular season home game. The crowd of nearly 3,000, however, experienced something much more special. It was the Dans’ 41st win of the season which set a new league record for most wins in a season. The previous record was set last year by the West Virginia Miners.
“It’s great,” Danville manager Jason Watson said. “These guys have played hard all season. It’s been a long season. For them to first tie that record and now set a new one is great for this team, this organization, and this community.
The Dans won their 40th game of the season on Thursday but lost consecutive games to Hannibal on Friday, and on Saturday in Terre Haute in the first of a two-city double-header.
Danville held a 3-0 lead in Terre Haute Saturday afternoon before giving up four runs in the eighth inning. The Dans tied the game with one run in the ninth, but an unearned run ultimately won it for the Rex.
Once the Dans arrived in Danville, they had forgotten about the loss, and received a combined nine-inning shutout from pitchers Corbin Olmstead, Jared Burton, and Trey McNickle.
“We always talk about, ‘Hey, move on. Right when you leave the ball park, forget about it.’ That’s what they did,” Watson said. “They showed up, they played a darn good baseball game tonight, and came out with the victory.”
History was also on their side as the Dans have not lost more than two consecutive games all season.
Olmstead threw seven innings and recorded nine strikeouts in the win. After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, Olmstead allowed only three hits and two walks in his final six innings. No Terre Haute runner made it past second base after the first frame.
The University of North Florida sophomore pitcher had little doubt that his team would be able to pull out the win and set the new record.
“We’ve been chasing that elusive 41 for a couple of games now, but we finally got it,” Olmstead said. “We worked hard as a team. Everybody did their part, and we were finally able to bring it home for Danville. There’s nothing more special for the team.
“This is a very special team, and we are very blessed to have known each other,” he added. “It’s very exciting to be able to do it in front of our home crowd because I believe that the longest streak didn’t come at home. We got it on the road. We were able to give our fans something to see, and (the fans) getting behind us is very important to us.”
The Dans ran into bad luck in the first three innings when possible scoring opportunities fell short.
Josh Miller reached on a lead-off single in the first inning but was stranded on third. Herrmann was picked off of second base for the third out in the second inning, and an inning-ending double play ruined any chance of getting on the board in the third.
Herrmann atoned for his previous mistake, though, and drove in what ultimately was the game-winning run in the fourth inning on a one-out double to the right field wall.
“It’s always good to be able to (contribute), especially with the one run of the game, too,” Herrmann said. “Coming up in a good situation, I just wanted to see a ball up, and I got a curveball to hit. I just saw it up and hit it hard. Good things happened.”
It was Herrmann’s second of three hits in the game and proved to be all the offensive output the Dans needed.
Now, they will wrap up the regular season today in Hannibal before beginning a best-of-three playoffs series on Tuesday in Quincy. The two teams will play in Danville on Wednesday with a third game, if necessary, also scheduled to be played on Thursday at Danville Stadium.
Danville is 25-7 since the beginning of July, and with its most recent record, has plenty of momentum going into the postseason.
“That’s two (league records) this year, which is really cool,” Herrmann said. “There aren’t many teams that would be able to say that, with the longest win streak and then having the most wins in a season. It’s definitely a good season. We just want to bring a championship back home now.”