The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 25, 2013

Dans build on their lead


DANVILLE — There are a lot of factors to the success of the Danville Dans this summer.

One of the biggest factors was on display during Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over the Quincy Gems at Danville Stadium.

Right-handed starter Blake Stevens recorded his sixth consecutive start without allowing more than two runs to improve his record to 4-0.

“I feel like I’m pitching with a lot of confidence right now, because our defense is so good,’’ he said.

And when you ask second baseman Sam Maus, he quickly points out the defense is a direct result of Stevens.

“He pitching really well,’’ said Maus, who fielded three groundouts and was a part of a double play on Wednesday night. “I don’t know that he’s had a bad start since joining the team.

“He is always throwing strikes, which is great for a fielder. He keeps us involved in the game.’’

So, good starting pitching has been a factor in Danville’s 24-5 record since June 21.

But a closer look at their games during that stretch will reveal that the Dans are 16-0 in nine-inning games during that time — a fact that was pointed out by Danville pitcher Mitch Holtz.

“That’s a big surprise. That’s more than a month,’’ said Maus. “But, when we pitch it and play defense like we have for the past month, you always give yourselves a shot to win.’’

And Stevens points out the team’s success in nine-inning games is also one of the big factors in their winning ways this summer — great bullpen pitching.

“That shows how good our bullpen is compared to the other teams,’’ he said. “Our losses in the seven-inning games are a result that we don’t get very deep into our opponent’s bullpens.

“I also think that’s why you see so many walk-off wins for us this season.’’

The Dans (34-14) have won nine games this summer in their last at-bats at Danville Stadium.

“We expect to win every time we come out to the park,’’ Stevens said. “It just depends on who is going to be the hero that night.

“It’s a lot of fun to be a part of team like that.’’

In Wednesday’s game there wasn’t really one offensive hero, but Chet Simoneaux and Maus picked up RBIs during Danville’s three-run third inning.

“We found a way to get the job done,’’ said Maus, who had a sacrifice fly in the inning.

“We knew it was going to be low-scoring game and a battle.

“So getting some offense in the early innings was going to be key.’’

Quincy scored its only run off of Stevens in the sixth inning on a two-out, bases-loaded walk, but the right-hander came back to strike out Jake Ivory to end the threat.

“Jake threw pretty well tonight,’’ Danville Dans coach Jason Watson said. “I think he got a little tired at the end, but he wanted to be in there.

“Jake is always grateful when he comes off the field. He is a great person and one heck of a pitcher. He did a very good job tonight.’’

And with the win, the Danville Dans extend their lead in the Prospect League’s West Division to three games over the Quincy Gems.

“We let a few get away from us in the last week, so it was nice to play well and beat a good team like Quincy,’’ said Maus referring to losses to Springfield and Hannibal.

“Winning games at this point is big, but beating the team that is chasing you is a big part to keeping the lead,’’ Watson added.

With the top teams in each division advancing to the postseason tournament, the Dans have a magic number of 3 for that goal.

“We haven’t thought much about the postseason,’’ Stevens said. “We want to make sure that we clinch this first spot in the West Division.

“We want to keep this going as long as we can.’’

And with a win over Quincy on Wednesday night, Danville now has a magic number of 10 to earn the West Division title.

“I just want the guys to continue to play ball and have fun,’’ Watson said. “I want them to continue to learn and continue to give this team an opportunity to win the division and possibly the entire league.’’

The Danville Dans will conclude its five-game, three-day homestand tonight with a 6 p.m. doubleheader against the Springfield Sliders.

Banks sidelined

with broken ribs

Danville Dans catcher Taylor Banks, a senior-to-be from Grand Valley State, will miss the rest of the year after breaking his ribs in last Saturday’s doubleheader against Springfield.

Banks, who was batting .250 with 0 home runs and 6 RBIs, suffered the injury sliding into home in the third inning.

Former Dans manager gets Cal State-Northridge job

Greg Moore, a manager with the Danville Dans during the 2001 season, was recently named the new head coach at Cal State Northridge.

Moore, who was most recently an the associated head coach at University of San Francisco, becomes the ninth head coach in Matador history as the program enters its 55th year of competition.

“My hope is that whether walking into the office, into the classroom or onto the field — the burning question for our staff and players is ‘how do we get better today?’” said Moore in an official CSUN press release.