BY AARON PATTERSON
Dream up a way to win a baseball game, and the Danville Dans have probably done it this season. They’ve even recorded a total of six walk-off wins, all in various fashions. Their latest came on Friday night in a 5-4 win over the Quincy Gems to move into a first-place tie for the West Division lead.
With two outs and a tie game, Sam Maus took one for the team advancing the winning run home on a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.
Maus had two hits and drove in a run earlier in the game, and confidence was high in the Dans’ dugout he would come through again.
“I was just trying to not do too much; see if I could get a pitch to hit and see if I could do something with it,” Maus said. “I hadn’t seen him before so I was thinking maybe I would see a strike or see maybe a fastball first and then see if I can go to work and win the game for us.
“I had had a few hits earlier and I felt like my timing was good and my swing was good. You can’t ask for anything more than to win the game.”
Quincy pitcher Joseph Mortillaro’s 2-2 pitch was high and inside, and hit Maus bringing home Jacob Thomas for the game-winning run.
It was the second run of the inning as Drew Buddle tied the game on Corbin Olmstead’s sacrifice fly to right field.
The Dans and starting pitcher Troy Conyers gave up two runs each in the first and third innings and struggled to find offense until the fourth when Spencer Herrmann kept the inning alive with a two-out infield single. He later scored on a single to center by Tyler Selesky.
Danville added two more in the sixth on an RBI single by Maus and a wild pitch, and just as the offense got going, the Dans’ defense stepped up to hold the Gems scoreless for the final six frames.
“It’s been the summer of walk-offs, really,” Danville pitcher Trey McNickle said. “That’s probably six for us, at least. I feel like every time we’re here we get a walk-off win. The fans obviously like it.
“We always feel like we’re still in the game. Our bullpen has been good enough to keep us in. Miles (Nordgren) is going to the All-Star game, but everyone’s been deserving of that. Everyone’s throwing really well in the pen. I feel like that’s been the difference. If we do get down, the bullpen is good enough to keep it where it is and give our offense a chance to fight back.”
McNickle pitched three innings of relief allowing only one hit before Mitch Holtz closed out the ninth and picked up his fifth win of the season.
The Dans have now won five games in a row and nine of their last 11. While the bats have come through late in the clutch, much of the credit has been given to the team’s pitching and defense.
“I’ve said all season that we have a great defense,” Dans manager Jason Watson said. “When pitchers keep the ball down and allow them to work, we’re very tough defensively. It’s one of those things; sometimes you find a way to win, sometimes you don’t. We had some good at bats there late and good approaches. Whether there was a hit or a walk or a hit-by-pitch there at the end, guys came through so I’m very proud of them for that.”
The Dans will be on the road for four games before returning to Danville Stadium on July 10 to host Hannibal. Danville hopes to build on its current five-game winning streak in its upcoming games against Terre Haute, Hannibal, and Springfield.
“That’s what we’re all here to do,” McNickle said of the Dans’ current hot streak. “We’re here to win. It’s big, especially winning like that. It’s going to crush them. It sucks to lose games like that, especially when you are leading in the ninth and you can’t finish. I think it will be huge for us going forward.”