BY CHAD DARE
Chase Thuston strives for perfection — both on and off the baseball field.
On Saturday morning, the senior right-hander was one batter away from his first no-hitter as a Viking.
Instead, Thurston had to settled for a 1-hit shutout and he recorded 17 strikeouts as Danville defeated Decatur Eisenhower 6-0 in a Big 12 Conference contest at Garfield Park.
“It was pretty frustrating,’’ Thurston said. “But you have to look at the game as a whole — 17 strikeouts, a shutout and a win over a conference opponent. It was still a good game.’’
Eisenhower’s Dalton Jimison got the Panthers only hit in the contest with a two-out infield single in the seventh.
“I knew it was a tough play,’’ said Thurston as Danville’s shortstop Grant Lamar’s throw was just a tick late. “I was hoping he could make it. It was a close play at first, and it’s a tough call.’’
Thurston, who has already committed to play at Eastern Illinois next year, was bidding to be the 16th pitcher in school history to throw a no-hitter and the 25th no-hitter in Viking baseball history.
“It would have been pretty amazing to go down with some of the great pitchers in Danville history,’’ said Thurston, as Tyler Brandon is the last Viking pitcher to throw a no-hitter. “Maybe, next time.’’
And, Thurston just missed a new school record with the 17 strikeouts.
Jason Anderson, a former Major Leaguer and former University of Illinois standout, holds the mark with 18 against Rantoul in 1997.
“Chase has electric stuff some days, where when he is getting that breaking ball over, it’s 12-to-6, it’s hard, it’s fast, and it’s a tough pitch to hit,’’ Gritton said. “Every time we’ve given him the ball, it’s been a really good outing.
“I’ve been very pleased with his effort.’’
Thurston, who has thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, improved to 3-0 this season with the victory.
“We had a tough loss to Normal Community (1-0 in 11 innings) last Saturday, and it’s good to comeback with a conference win at home,’’ Thurston said.
But, the senior still wanted a high school no-hitter to go along with his no-hitter last summer with Danville Post 210.
“He was ticked off when he didn’t get a no-hitter,’’ Gritton said. “It was a great performance, regardless.’’
And to lose it on the second-to-last batter after thinking about since the second inning added to the frustration for Thurston.
“It was in the back of my head, but you never want to talk about it on the field, or you will jinx yourself,’’ he said.
But, why did he think that he could throw a no-hitter on Saturday against Eisenhower?
“I just felt like I had good command and I knew I could go the distance,’’ he said. “My curve ball was working really well today, I felt like I had good velocity on my fastball and I just tried to hit spots.’’
The Panthers, who did draw two walks off of Thurston, managed to get just one ball out of the infield against the senior right-hander.
But, it still wasn’t perfect and that leaves Thurston something to work on before his next start.
“Chase is a perfectionist in every thing he does,’’ Gritton said. “His grades — he’s a brilliant student. He is even a perfectionist when he works on the mound after the game.
“And when he’s pitching, he has really good stuff. He has a sneaky fastball, an outstanding breaking ball, a good changeup and he is a competitor on the mound, who has the smarts. He is the complete package.’’
And that’s why Thurston is going to be a preferred walk-on next year at Eastern Illinois University.
“Being a preferred walk-on means that I’m on the team, but I’m not getting any scholarship money for athletics,’’ said Thurston, who is receiving a Presidential scholarship for academics, and may qualify for many other academic awards based on his very high grade-point average and a 33 ACT score.
And when Thurston joins the Panthers next season, he will be playing for a pair of Vikings.
Former Danville standout Ben Wolgamot is in his second year at Eastern Illinois and Anderson is in his first season as the Panthers pitching coach.
“With two Danville guys being there, that was a big part of my decision,’’ said Thurston, who also considered Danville Area Community College and Illinois Wesleyan. “I love the facility, as I went to two showcase camps there and my mom went to the school.
“But, getting an offer from a Division I school was a big deal, I felt like I had to take it.’’
In the second game, a non-conference contest, Danville freshman Dylan Marble and junior Mike Vascura combined to throw another 1-hitter against Eisenhower.
Marble, who went six innings, earned his first varsity victory in the Vikings 6-0 triumph over the Panthers.
“Dylan has really done a nice job in his first two varsity contests,’’ Gritton said. “He walked the first two batters and Brady Watkins made a big play to help him out of that jam. After that, he settled down and pitched well.’’
The Vikings, who improved to 6-6 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference on Saturday, had just nine hits in the sweep.
Danville is back in action on Tuesday with a home contest against the Champaign Centennial Chargers. First pitch at Danville Stadium is set for 4:30 p.m.