BY AARON PATTERSON
After a night that seemed as though it might never end, the Danville Dans did everything in their power to make sure Friday’s game against the first-place Quincy Gems went more smoothly.
A double-header on Thursday night against Hannibal, originally scheduled to be played as two seven-inning games, turned into a 17-inning affair that lasted nearly six hours concluding just after midnight. Danville won both contests in walk-off fashion marking the team’s third consecutive such win. Not only did the Dans want an easy Friday game against Quincy, the nerves of manager Jason Watson deserved it.
University of San Diego pitcher Troy Conyers did his part, making his first official pitching appearance of the summer, and the Dans’ bats belted out a season-high 12 hits to help secure an impressive 11-2 win over the Gems.
“I thought we were going to respond well,” University of Louisiana—Monroe product Chet Simoneaux said. “We had a lot of rest after a big game. I think everybody was fired up and ready to play at home. We knew we were going to have a big crowd tonight, so I think everybody was ready to play.
“We haven’t been hitting well,” he added. “I think everybody just got tired of it and came out ready to play.”
The win was the fourth in a row for the Dans who have recorded at least nine hits in each game during the streak. It was the second time this season Danville recorded 12 hits in a contest, the last coming in an 8-7 home loss to Springfield. But it was the first time the Dans scored more than seven runs since the season opener. Eight Dans had at least one hit easing the pressure on the Danville pitching staff.
The Dans (8-5) held a 6-0 lead after three innings, and Conyers cruised through five innings striking out eight, giving up four walks, no runs, and not allowing a hit until the top of the fifth when Quincy’s Steven Pallares reached on a leadoff single to left field.
“I felt good,” Conyers said. “All my stuff was working. I was pounding in and out, and my change-up and slider were working good so I was really happy with it.
“As soon as I saw that our defense was playing solid, it gave me a lot more confidence,” he added. “When the defense and pitching are doing well, it takes the pressure off the hitters. Once we got one or two in the first inning, that’s all we needed.”
Quincy didn’t get on the board until the sixth when three consecutive batters reached base on relief pitcher Trey McNickles. Not taking any chances, the Dans scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth on three hits, two walks, and one hit batsman. Josh Miller had an RBI double in the inning, and pinch-hitter Chad Klein drove him in on a two-run triple that extended Danville’s lead to 9-2.
The win was Danville’s first by more than two runs since defeating Hannibal 10-5 in the season opener.
“I’ve been waiting all season to see this team play a pretty close to complete game as far as pitching, defense, hitting,” Watson said. “Hitting came around tonight. We got the big hits and a lot of guys were swinging the bats well. It was definitely a little less nerve-racking for me to win by a good margin. They played well. Quincy (9-5), they’re a good team. We just happened to play better tonight.”
The Dans have now won six of their last seven and hope to keep the momentum going tonight when they host first place Terre Haute (10-4). The Rex beat Danville 11-1 on June 5 and have won seven of their last 10.
“Momentum is big,” Watson said. “That is another big game. It is early in the season, but if we can continue to get better everyday as far as all the areas of the baseball game, it’s going to be a fun and enjoyable summer.”