BY JIM COTTER
For most of the 2013 season, the Danville Dans have been used to winning games in the late stages.
On Friday night, they almost did it again, falling just short and losing to the Hannibal Cavemen 4-3 at Danville Stadium.
The Cavemen jumped ahead in the first inning on an inauspicious play that resulted in two throwing errors, one by starting pitcher Blake Stevens, and the other one by the right fielder Sam Maus.
The Dans got on the board in the bottom half of the third inning as Jake Thomas led off the inning with a triple, followed by a sacrifice fly by Maus.
Some fireworks erupted in the top half of the fourth inning when Casey Fletcher made a throw right on the money to Dans catcher Kyle Kapka to nail Michael Duarte at the plate to end the inning.
The play resulted in Hannibal’s Zane Hemond, who is the son of Cavemen manager Jay Hemond, to be ejected from the game. That ejection prompted Hannibal to play the remainder of the game under protest.
Fletcher, who finished the game 3 for 5, feels that a little rest has done him good over the past few days.
“I’m starting to see the ball well, and I finally got some days off to rest my body”, Fletcher said. “This season has been a grind on everyone, and playing 60 games out here, everyone’s bodies are deteriorating.”
The Dans tied the game at 2 apiece in the bottom of the fourth inning on a base hit by leadoff hitter Jake Thomas, scoring Tyler Selesky from second base.
Stevens, the Dans starting pitcher, went 5 innings, allowing 2 earned runs while walking 2 and recording 4 strikeouts.
Hannibal regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning, as they strung together 4 hits to score a couple of runs off of Dans reliever Jon Rashid.
The game stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Dans made their furious comeback attempt. An infield bloop single by Spencer Herrmann loaded the bases and brought to the plate Josh Miller, who laced a single to centerfield.
Fletcher scored from third, having reached starting a two-out rally, but a strong throw by Hannibal centerfielder Jonathon Wandling gunned down Danville’s pinch-runner Trey Russell, who was running for Chet Simoneaux.
“It’s a tough way to lose the game, that’s for sure”, Dans manager Jason Watson said after the game. “Their fielder made a great play, and that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
The loss drops the Dans to 40-17, while Hannibal improves their record to 26-27. The Dans will head into the final weekend of the regular season trying to rebound after this tough loss.
The 40 wins that Danville has on the season is a Prospect League record, and they will attempt to add on to that mark on Saturday, when they have a day-night doubleheader against the Terre Haute Rex.
The Dans will play in Terre Haute in the afternoon, before heading back to Danville for the regular season finale at 6:30 on Saturday night.