BY AARON PATTERSON
What happened to the Danville Area Community College Jaguars baseball team on Friday in Champaign was tough to take.
Manager Tim Bunton described the doubleheader loss to the Parkland College Cobras as one of the most difficult he has suffered.
It wasn’t losing to the program’s rival that made it so tough, but rather blowing a 5-0 lead with only five outs to go in the first of the two games.
The Jaguars gave up eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to lose 8-5, and were then shutout 9-0 in the second contest.
But the Jaguars were resilient, winning two games against the Lincoln College Lynx on Saturday before splitting Sunday’s double-header — winning 7-3 and losing 10-7 — to earn a 3-1 series win.
“We couldn’t shut them off,” Bunton said of losing Sunday’s finale. “It’s hard to win four games in this league in a series, but we were right there. In the big picture, we did win the series.”
The Jaguars (18-8 overall, 9-5 in the Mid-West Athletic Conference) might have felt as though they were reliving Friday’s disappointing loss. After defeating the Lynx in Sunday’s opener, DACC held another 7-2 lead after five innings in the finale.
Six more outs and the Jaguars’ would have had a four-game winning streak to start the second half of the season. Instead, they gave up seven runs in the top of the sixth, five coming with two outs.
To that point, relief pitcher Alec Neal had shut down the Lynx since entering the game in the second inning. After starter Skyler Reis ran into trouble early, Neal faced only 11 batters in 3Ï innings and gave up only one hit.
But Lincoln’s Ryan Long led off the sixth with a solo home run, and DACC ultimately used a total of three pitchers in the frame.
“We just couldn’t get any outs,” Jaguars shortstop Mark Keller said. “They kept getting balls to fall in. They just kept hitting bloops, and we couldn’t get any outs.
“An inning like that is going to get you down. We tried to battle back there in that last inning, but we couldn’t really manufacture any hits. But, we got three out of four against them.”
And Keller was on his game in Sunday’s opener to help secure the series win.
The future Illinois State University Redbird had three hits on the day, including his first home run of the season, and seven RBI. Keller started the day with only four RBI to his name. Five came in the win with the help of a three-run homer in the fourth that put his team up 7-2.
The Jaguars, who admit they are not a power team, have now hit three home runs in their last two games. In addition to Keller’s shot, Tyler McKenzie hit his second in as many days. There was little doubt his blast would leave the yard as all Lincoln center fielder Darin Pitts could do was slowly turn and watch the blast bounce off the score board.
DACC totaled 13 hits and 14 runs on the day, drew 11 walks, and struck out only four times. All four of the Ks came in the second game.
“I think we’ll do enough offensively to compete in the league; we have to pitch and defend,” Bunton said. “When you look at the sixth inning, pitching and defending wasn’t the greatest, and that’s what got us. But, we’re not going to beat ourselves up over it. We did win a series, it just hurts when it’s that close and you had an opportunity to put a win in the bank.”
A.J. Childerson (4-1) picked up the win for DACC throwing all seven innings, striking out three and walking none. Mike Walker finished with two hits and drove in three runs.
DACC is scheduled to next play two games at Franklin College on Wednesday, and will return home on Thursday to host Vincennes University .
The Jaguars will then look to take advantage of a stretch in which they play 10 consecutive games at home, including contests against Illinois Central College, Parkland, Kankakee, John Wood, and Olney Central College .
“We’re doing pretty good in the conference so far this year,” Keller said. “As long as we keep winning conference games, I think we should be fine. Only six teams make it in the playoffs this year, so I think we’re on a good pace right now.”