BY CHAD DARE
Dalton Dieu figured that his baseball playing days were over when Schlarman Academy lost in the Class 1A regional tournament.
The Hilltoppers 9-1 loss to the Cissna Park Timberwolves on May 16 was going to be his last game as a player.
Just like any future college student would do in that situation, Dieu found himself a part-time summer job.
He was umpiring in the Danville American Legion Youth Baseball program when Post 210 manager Allan Shepherd approached him about pitching for the Speakers.
“He had been after me for about three weeks,’’ said Dieu, who finally gave in this past week.
“Allan said, ‘let’s make a deal. You come throw at Saturday’s practice, if your arm’s good, you get to start on Sunday,’” said Dieu of last week’s encounter. “I love pitching and I’m not playing college ball. So, why not play one more time?’’
The big right-hander, looking very strong, threw six solid innings, allowing just one run on seven hits as Dieu won his very outing with Post 210 beating Paris 2-1 at Danville Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“Dalton just joined the roster,’’ Shepherd said. “He came out and was really efficient.
“Getting another arm on this roster will make things a little easier going into the heart of the season.’’
Dieu walked two and struck out five before running into a little trouble in the seventh.
“My arm felt great after not throwing for more than a month,’’ he said. “I just went out there trying to throw strikes, and I wanted to let me defense work for me.’’
Leading 2-0 in the seventh, Paris loaded the bases with a single from Clay Mason, Jake Whitacre was hit by a pitch and Logan McDaniel got on with a bunt single.
Shepherd turned things over to the left-handed Jordan West, who gave up one run on a sacrifice fly to center by Clint Foster.
But the former North Vermillion Falcon struck out the final two batters to lock down the save and a 2-1 victory for Post 210 in the opener.
The Speakers (12-4) followed that victory with a 7-0 triumph in the nightcap as right-hander Zack Girton, a 2012 graduate of Oakwood, tossed a two-hit shutout.
“I don’t pitch much,’’ said Girton, who took the loss in Tuesday’s game with Clinton, Ind. “I finally learned how to pitch today. I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and I attacked the zone.
“Throwing strikes is the key and the defense made the plays behind me.’’
Girton, one of six key returning players from last year’s third-place team in the state, admits that Dieu brings more than a good arm to the Post 210 team.
“Dalton is a big pickup,’’ Girton said. “He keeps everyone loose. His personality brings the best out of everyone.
“He is great to have in the dugout and on the mound for us.’’
But the biggest thing that Post 210 is looking in the next few weeks before postseason play begins is a little more offense.
Danville scored nine runs on just 10 hits during Sunday’s sweep with Jeff Woods collecting four, while Chase Thurston (double) and Kody Zumwalt (triple) had the team’s only extra base hits. Zumwalt had two RBIs in the second game.
“I’ll take a lot more offense, but as long as we keep playing defense and pitching — I don’t care how we win,’’ Shepherd said. “And, Paris is a tough team. They are not going to beat themselves.’’
Sunday’s execution with just one error in both games and no baserunning mistakes was a major improvement over Tuesday’s loss to Clinton, Ind.
“We stepped up our game in practice, we worked really hard and that’s what it takes. We looked a lot better on defense,’’ Shepherd said. “We ran the bases better. We made a lot of mistakes on the bases in the previous weeks. I was really pleased with the way they handled themselves, and we didn’t miss any signs.
“They are starting to gel. We will get there.’’
Danville is back in action at the Mattoon Tournament on Wednesday.
The next home game for the Post 210 Speakers is scheduled for Monday, July 1st, against Robinson.