BY CHAD DARE
In a historical season, the Danville Dans added another piece to their puzzle.
With a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Springfield Sliders in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader at Danville Stadium, the Dans equaled the franchise record for wins in a season.
The 35th triumph of the summer for the 2013 squad equals the number of victories for the 2000 Danville Dans and the 1998 Danville Dans.
“That’s an awesome accomplishment,’’ said Danville Dans outfielder Casey Fletcher. “Of all the years they have played baseball here at Danville Stadium, it’s something to get the most wins in a season.
“It shows how much talent we have on this team.’’
Unfortunately for the Dans, they were unable to set a new record in the second game, as the Sliders Chance Simpson tossed a three-hit shutout as Springfield earned a split with a 2-0 victory.
Fletcher also had a big role in the record-tying victory as his two-out, two-run single in the fifth capped a four-run fifth inning for the Dans (35-15).
Sam Maus and Troy Conyers got the frame started with back-to-back walks.
With two outs in the inning, Jake Thomas drove home the first run with a bloop single to center. Josh Miller followed with a single to right that scored Conyers when Springfield’s Wade Rothermich threw wildly toward the plate.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,’’ Danville manager Jason Watson said. “They are fun to coach and they play as a team.
“It’s been fun and it’s done yet. We have a lot more games left. Ideally, we set a new record and leave a new legacy.’’
After taking the lead in the fifth, Watson turned the game over to left-hander reliever Jared Burton with a runner on first in the sixth.
Burton got the final six outs to pick up his third save of the summer. He also extended his string of innings without allowing an earned run to 25.
“I’m just locating pitches where they need to be put and letting my defense work behind me. That’s about it,’’ said Burton, a senior-to-be from East Tennessee State.
And while he is proud of what he has accomplished, he had no idea nor did he want to know about his scoreless string.
“I don’t really care,’’ he said. “I’m just going out, having fun and doing what I’m supposed to do for the team.’’
Watson said that Burton has been a pleasure to coach in every aspect.
“He’s brought life,’’ Watson said. “He is a great guy to be around, a great teammate and one heck of a player.
“He is a fun guy to coach — from the on-the-field stuff to the off-the-field stuff.’’
Watson also said that there hasn’t been a day this summer that Burton didn’t want to take the ball for his team.
“Anytime, I ask him ‘how is the arm,’ he is always ready to go,’’ the coach said. “He wants the ball and obviously the coaching staff and the players know he means business when he has the ball.
“But on the other hand, we can’t throw him out there too much. We don’t want him to get tired, because we need him down the stretch and in the postseason.’’
While it was Burton’s third save of the summer and his second of this week, being that guy that gets the final out is a new role for the left-hander from Knoxville.
“I’ve never done that before,’’ Burton said. “I’m getting my feet wet here this summer and hopefully, it’s something that I can take back to school next year.’’
Mitch Holtz, who gave up three runs in the first inning, went five to get his sixth win of the summer.
The right-hander from University of Penn finished with four strikeouts and three walks.
Danville’s game two starter, Spencer Herrmann went the distance, allowing just two runs in seven innings but the Dans offense couldn’t produce against the Sliders’ Simpson.
“It would have been nice to get the sweep, but we’re still in a good position,’’ said Fletcher, as the Danville Dans maintain a three-game lead over the Quincy Gems, who were idle on Thursday night.
But this is the second loss in the past six games against the worst team in the Prospect League. Springfield is now 9-40 in the West Division.
“They are a tougher team than what we faced earlier this year,’’ Fletcher added. “They have a lot different players on that squad. They are a better team than that record indicates.
“They also won a game against Quincy as well this past weekend.’’
Danville’s Chad Klein led off the third inning with a triple to left-center, but the next three batters popped out, lined out and struck out.
The Dans had the top three guys in the lineup, Fletcher, Jake Thomas, Josh Miller, taking the game off as well.
“We have a lot more games left,’’ said Watson, as the Dans have 10 more games during the regular season and they are just two wins away from a postseason berth. “Ideally, we want to set a new record and establish a new legacy.’’
The Danville Dans concluded a five-game, three-day homestand on Thursday night, the team will begin a four-game, three-day roadtrip on Saturday after taking tonight off.
The road trip starts in Quincy with a 6:30 p.m. contest against the second-place Gems. After that is a single game in Springfield on Sunday and the trip concludes with a doubleheader in Hannibal on Monday.
The next home game for the Danville Dans is Tuesday when they will host the Terre Haute Rex in a 6:30 p.m. contest. It’s also the final Two-Buck Tuesday at Danville Stadium for the 2013 season as admission, hot dogs and beverages are all $2.