BY CHAD DARE
Good pitching is vital component to good baseball.
That was never more evident than Tuesday’s Prospect League doubleheader between the Hannibal Cavemen and the Danville Dans.
In the opening game, the Dans gave away eight free bases as the Cavemen got their first win of the year in Danville with a 7-1 triumph.
But, Danville’s Corbin Olmstead and Jared Burton combined to a two-hit shutout in the second game as the Dans earned the split with a 2-0 victory.
“It all starts with pitching,’’ Danville catcher Kyle Kapka said. “When the pitchers are going good, you want to do a little extra to get them some offense. When they struggle and you get down big, an offense will try to do too much and it never works.
“Corbin and I had a little talk after the first inning. In the first game, they got easy bases and that pretty much came back to bite us. We wanted to make them earn their offense.’’
After a second inning where Olmstead (4-1) worked out of a bases-loaded situation, he retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced.
“My goal was to do my best for the team and I had to locate my pitches to do that,’’ said Olmstead, who struck out nine and walked just two in six innings. “I’ve always been told that dominate pitching can beat dominate hitting any day of the week. I work on both aspects of the game as a two-way player, I know that pitching can dominate a game.
“I just wanted to keep us in the game and I knew the offense was going to get it done.’’
The Dans (33-14) got the only run that Olmstead and Burton would need in the fifth when Kapka drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk.
Hannibal starter Kyle Kuck (3-3) ended up walking four batters in that inning, allowing his only run to score.
“With the bases loaded, I was hoping to get a fastball in my zone,’’ Kapka admitted. “But nothing was close. He got pretty wild and I took the walk.’’
The Dans would add an insurance run in the sixth on a two-out, RBI-double from Josh Miller.
“In the second game, we did enough to win,’’ Danville manager Jason Watson said. “We didn’t play very well, but we did enough to get a victory.’’
And after the first game in which Hannibal scored five times in the fifth and the Cavemen (21-23) finished with nine hits in the seven-inning contest.
“First game, we didn’t play very well in general,’’ Watson said. “Pitching wasn’t there, we couldn’t hit and we committed a couple of errors.
“It was a tough game for us to have a chance to win. We put ourselves in a hole.’’
And that made winning the second game even more important to the Dans and their postseason hopes.
“We feel good going into the final weeks,’’ Olmstead said. “We have a two-game lead, but that could change really quickly.
“Right now, we’re playing for each other and we’re incredibly blessed to be in this position.’’
And with the second game victory, the Dans will take a two-game lead into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. contest against the Quincy Gems, a 3-1 winner over Springfield, on Tuesday night.
“We’re into the home stretch and with Quincy coming into town, this was a big win,’’ Watson said. “It’s a lot better to be up two games than just one game. There is a sense of urgency right now.’’
In the first game, the Dans got their only offense in the third inning when leadoff batter Jake Thomas started the frame with a single. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Josh Miller.
With two outs in the inning, Chet Simoneaux added to his team-leading RBI total with a single to center.
Thomas had two of the Danville’s five hits in the opening game.
The Danville Dans will continue their five-game, three-day homestand tonight with a single game at 6:30 p.m. against the Quincy Gems.
The Chicago Blackhawks Band is the special guest tonight at Danville Stadium, and it’s a triple-play combo Wednesday as $9 will get anyone admission the game and two of the following three — hot dog, beer, soda.