BY AARON PATTERSON
The best part of Tuesday’s game for the Danville Post 210 Speakers might be that it’s over. That means they don’t have to play another game until Saturday.
Hosting Urbana at Carl Gruber Sports Complex marked the fifth game for Danville in the last six days, and the fatigue was beginning to show. Tired arms and a few injuries had the Speakers longing for a day of rest, or at minimum, searching for a bit of relief.
But the last thing Urbana wanted to do was take it easy on a Danville team that, despite working through its share of adversity, has found a way to win games. It took extra innings, but the Speakers won their seventh game in the last eight tries in walk-off fashion.
Tied 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Danville’s Austin Calhoun hit a fly ball to center. The Urbana outfielder lost the ball in the lights, and Calhoun landed on third for a one-out triple. The throw to the cutoff man was off the mark, though, and Calhoun scored easily to give the Speakers an 8-7 win in eight innings.
“We didn’t expect it to happen that way, but we’ll take it,” Speakers manager Allan Shepherd said. “We’ll take it how we can get it right now.”
The Speakers trailed 4-0 after three innings, and were admittedly lacking the energy they needed to compete to their potential. It took a fourth-inning pep talk by Shepherd and a few base runners in the bottom of the fourth to spark the team to a five-run inning.
Kody Zumwalt, Jordan West, Hunter Krauel, Adam Depratt, Zack Girton, and Nik Shepherd all reached base to start the bottom of the fourth and scored three runs. Calhoun helped finish the scoring with a rule-book double to center that put two more on the board and gave Danville a 5-4 lead.
“Scoring that many runs in an inning gives (you) motivation and keeps you pumped about the game,” Calhoun said. “Scoring five in one inning just really helped us a lot.
“That brought our spirits up a lot,” he added. “We were pretty flat. After we scored five runs and coach gave us our pep talk, we were back in the game.”
Urbana threatened in the top of the eighth and had two runners on with one out, but Austin West fielded a ground ball, stepped on third, and threw to first just in time to complete the inning-ending double play and prevent Urbana from taking the lead.
The resiliency of the Speakers is something that Shepherd said reminds him of last year’s squad that finished third in the state tournament. The Speakers’ ability to bounce back gives them the confidence that they can overcome any deficit, but Shepherd would rather stay free of the drama.
“That team’s been this way,” Shepherd said. “The thing I talked about in my postgame was, we can’t give teams a head start like that. But it’s good to see that they will battle back.
“The team I had last year was like that. They fought, they scrapped, they kept in the game, and this team is showing a lot of those signs, too. It’s good early. I don’t much like it late in the season.”
Calhoun had a double in addition to his triple, Krauel also had two hits including a double, and Zumwalt, and Depratt each had one hit. Kraul, Depratt, Girton, and Nik Shepherd each drove in one run.
Danville used a total of four pitchers (Trevor Price, West, Girton) with Conner Jarling getting the win after throwing the final inning. Urbana’s Jon Tauber entered the game in the sixth and held the Speakers scoreless with no hits and only two runners reaching on walks. Calhoun’s walk-off in the eighth was the only hit and run Tauber allowed.
The only team to defeat the Speakers (8-3) this season is Rantoul. While Danville has now won seven of its last eight games, Shepherd is drawing much of his optimism from knowing he has still not seen his full roster play together at once.
“The competition goes up from here, but the pitching is going to get healthy,” Shepherd said. “I still haven’t had a complete team yet. Our starting third baseman is out with a broken hand, I’ve got a kid on a cruise, and my starting second baseman wasn’t here tonight. When I get a complete team, I think we’re going to be really good. They’re starting to jell.”