BY CHAD DARE
Danville Post 210 manager Allan Shepherd never dreamt that pitching would be a problem for his Speakers.
But on Sunday night in the opening round game of the Fourth Division Tournament, the Post 210 top two hurlers couldn’t find the strikezone.
Chase Thurston and Jake England combined for six walks and one hit-batter in three innings and Pontiac Post 78 turned those seven free passes into five runs en route to a 13-5 victory over Danville.
“Never,’’ said Shepherd when asked if he had ever seen that kind of game before.
And his top-two pitchers echoed those same sentiments.
“Those were just free runs,’’ said Thurston, who took the loss after allowing four unearned runs in two innings. “You can’t defend the walk. We all struggled to throw strikes and that’s a big reason this game went downhill so fast.’’
And it didn’t help that the Speakers seemed like a bunch of perfect choir boys in church on Sunday.
“No one came ready to play,’’ England said. “You got to want it, to win it. You can’t just go out there and expect them to give it to us.
“No one had their head into the game and that explains the loss.’’
Was that normal or something this team was worried about?
“Not with this team,’’ England said. “We are typically a very vocal team and we get into the game right away.
“Apparently, no one wanted to paly this game tonight and it showed.’’
Thurston admitted that the Speakers might have looked past the Pontiac team, which has seven colleigate-aged players on their roster.
“In the game of baseball, if you don’t come prepared to play, that’s what is going to happen,’’ said Thurston, who did got 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI.
And it wasn’t just the players on the field for Danville.
“As far as dugout support it’s the worst we’ve had all year and it might be the worst in my career with legion baseball,’’ said Shepherd, who added that things would be different tonight when Post 210 plays either Piatt County of Urbana in a elimination game.
The Speakers will need to win six straight games to secure a second straight trip to the American Legion State Tournament in Trenton.
“We’ve done it before,’’ said England. “Two years ago (in juniors), we lost our first game and had to come through the loser’s bracket.
“We have the talent. We just need to do it.’’
And according to Thurston, Danville needs to learn from this game.
“Even the best teams have a bad night,’’ he said. “The key is getting better from it.
“Our pitching staff is deep enough for us to still make a run at the state tournament.’’
While the pitching was a big factor in the loss, Shepherd pointed out that the Speakers also failed to produce a key hit.
Danville had 11 hits to just nine for Pontiac, but Post 210 also left 11 runners on base including four in scoring position in the first six innings.
“Bottom line, we didn’t pitch it very well and we didn’t hit it very well,’’ Shepherd said. “We can’t expect to shut everyone out.’’
Tonight’s action in Rantoul begins with Urbana against Piatt County at 5 p.m. with the winner playing Danville at 7:45 p.m.