The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 20, 2014

Vikings continue to learn

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Spoken in clichés, this could be a long season. The calendar says it is half over. The reality is, there has been gradual improvement. And the hope is, this learning experience will bode well for the future of the Danville High School baseball program.

For all involved, there is truth in the realization that the 2014 baseball season for the Danville Vikings is a learning experience.

The first season as head coach for former assistant Geoff Desmond is the final campaign for a handful of seniors, and a 1-9 start isn’t quite what either had in mind for this year.

The Vikings got their latest lesson — as it goes for a determined but inexperienced team — on Saturday on the losing end of a doubleheader sweep against Normal Community. The Ironmen defeated the Vikings 8-1 and 11-1 (five innings) respectively at Danville Stadium.

“There’s a lot of new guys,” Desmond said. “We lost a lot of seniors from last year and there are a lot of new faces on varsity. A lot of it could be, a lot of these guys are seeing varsity pitching for the first time. The game might be going a little fast for some of our guys in our lineup. That’s just one of those things where they have to get the repetition. Maybe after they get some repetition of playing some varsity games and stringing some at bats together, the game will start slowing down for them. Right now, it’s moving at a fast pace for a lot of these guys.”

Danville found itself down early in both of Saturday’s contests putting the struggling bats of the Vikings at an immediate disadvantage.

The Ironmen (6-6 overall, 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference) scored four runs in the first frame of Game 1 en route to their seven-run win, and pushed runs across the plate in each of the five innings in Game 2.

The Vikings, however, managed only one run in each game with Austin West driving in leadoff man Brady Watkins in the first inning of the opener, and Watkins scoring in the third inning of Game 2 when Tristan Wolfe reached on a bunt and throwing error by Normal Community pitcher Hunter Bailey (2-1).

Desmond has faith in regular starting pitchers Mike Vascura (0-2) and Dylan Marble, but a lack of offensive consistency has led to setbacks.

“All three phases of the game, we haven’t had that click for us in the same game,” Desmond said. “We have had decent starting pitching, but we make the errors and we don’t hit. We’ve got to have it to where we have a good outing from our starter and make routine plays behind him, and then hit and score some runs. We are not hitting and we are not scoring runs.

“You can just feel the deflation in our dugout when they (the opposing team) get up early because that’s the thing; it’s got to be there or now we’ve got to score, now we’ve got to hit,” Desmond added. “It hasn’t really happened for us. We had one game where we hit really well, and that’s really kind of been it. Other than that, it has been key performances from individual guys. It has not been a team or group effort offensively.”

The Vikings were outhit 26-6 on Saturday, but saw improvement at the plate as compared to previous outings.

“At least we are starting to make teams make defensive plays against us instead of just striking out,” Desmond said. “Striking out, we don’t give ourselves a chance. We did put the ball in play better today, which is a good sign. That’s something we can build on. If there is anything we can hang our hat on today offensively, because we didn’t have a lot of hits, we didn’t have many runs — if there is anything we can hang our hat on today, it’s we made the defense make plays to get us out.”

West and Emmet Black each had two hits on the day for Danville, which tallied only six combined in the two games.

Vascura took the loss in Game 1 giving up six hits and four runs while Keegan West was credited with the loss in Game 2.

Danville is scheduled to host Urbana on Tuesday at Danville Stadium before playing its next four games on the road. The Vikings will play at Urbana on Thursday, visit Decatur Eisenhower for a doubleheader on Saturday, and will be in Champaign on April 29 taking on Champaign Centennial.

The Vikings hope to take the gradual improvement and lasting optimism on the road with plans of adding marks to the win column. Desmond is confident his team is capable of doing as much.

“I think for the most part, it’s a good group of guys that are trying their hardest,” Desmond said. “All I can ask for from the group is that they come out and try their best. I think that they are doing that.”