BY CHAD DARE
Danville Dans coach Jason Watson is just enjoying the way his team is playing.
But, his players have been keeping track of their success on the field.
Danville Dans pitcher Zach Gordon knew exactly the significance of Friday’s 7-1 win over the Springfield Sliders at Robin Roberts Field.
“Breaking records” was his tweet after the Dans won their 11th straight game, in the process setting a new Prospect League Record.
“No kidding,’’ said Watson after the game. “I know they have been talking about it and they are certainly enjoying it.’’
But, is it a good thing for the players to talk about?
“Oh sure,’’ Watson said. “They are a little more focused because of it and it’s given them something to shoot for.’’
And while the 11 straight wins is a new Prospect League record, it only ties the team record.
That’s because the 2003 Danville Dans of the Central Illinois Collegiate League won 11 straight during their championship season.
“Well, I guess that gives them one more thing to shoot for,’’ said Watson.
With the win on Friday night, Danville (27-11) takes a full two-game lead over Quincy (25-13) in the Prospect League’s West Division.
Left-hander Troy Conyers, the starting pitcher for the West Division in Wednesday’s all-star game, showed exactly why he was chosen for that honor against the Sliders (6-32).
Conyers, a sophomore-to-be from the University of San Diego, struck out a team-high 13 batters in six innings, allowing just one hit, while walking four.
“Troy threw it pretty well,’’ Watson said. “He got into a little bit of a jam in the fifth when they loaded the bases with no outs. Troy just proceeded to strike out the next three batters to get out of it.’’
That was just one of three times in Friday’s game that Springfield would load the bases and not score.
Two innings later, the first three batters for the Sliders got two hits and walk against Dans reliever Evan Dunn.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Danville went to lefty Jared Burton, who struck out Wade Rothermich and got James Black to hit into an inning-ending double play.
“That was big in that situation,’’ Watson said. “Jared has battled for us all year. He came in and got the job done.’’
Burton tossed two shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 0.63.
The Dans came just one inning shy of back-to-back shutout as the Sliders pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth of Danville reliever Trey McNickle.
“When you are playing relatively error-free baseball, like we have been, you are going to put yourself in a position to win a lot of games,’’ Watson said. “The guys are a very good group to be around and they are very competitive.’’
Danville got all the offense it would need in the first inning as right fielder Chet Simoneaux belted a two-run homer. It was the fourth home run this season for Simoneaux and his third in the past seven games for the Dans.
Simoneaux finished with three RBIs, while Jake Thomas, Josh Miller and Adam Casson all shared team-high honors with two hits each. Thomas and Casson each scored twice for the Dans.
Danville is off today before heading to Quincy on Sunday for three-game series in two days.
The Dans and Gems will play a doubleheader on Sunday and a single game on Monday at QU Stadium.
After that the Prospect League’s West Division will take three days off for the all-star game. Danville will be represented by Conyers, Fletcher, third baseman Tyler Selesky and relief pitcher Miles Nordgren.
The Dans are not back home at Danville Stadium until next Saturday with a 5 p.m. doubleheader against the Springfield Sliders. That night is also McPack the Place night with free tickets available that week at local McDonald’s restaurants.