DANVILLE — Oakwood’s Chase Vinson was getting ready for his drive over Normal on Tuesday for his Kernels Collegiate Summer League game at the Corn Crib.
Vinson, who was batting .289 with 1 homer and 14 RBIs for the KCL Ground Sloths, had a 7:30 p.m. contest against the Howlers.
But a little after noon, a phone call from Danville Dans manager Eric Coleman changed his plans.
“This morning at the gym, I realized that we needed to add some depth just in case for the final 11 games of the regular season,’’ Coleman said. “I got ahold of (DACC coach) Clayton (Hicks) to see if Chase was available. And then I talked with Chase, found out that he was on board and we sent him a contract.
“I told him that he was going to be in the lineup for both games on Tuesday night.’’
Cellular phones all over Vermilion County, especially in Oakwood, started spreading the news fast and furious.
On a Two-Buck Tuesday with 3,498 fans at Danville Stadium, the former Oakwood, Post 210 and DACC standout with 2-for-8 as the Dans split a doubleheader against the Champion City Kings. Danville lost the opener 6-5 in eight innings, but the Dans came back to win the second game 12-11.
“That call came out of the blue, but it was nice getting that call,’’ Vinson said. “Being able to play for the Dans, even if its only 10 or 11 games, is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Being able to play in front of my hometown community is special.
“I also have a lot family around here, so it was nice to get in from of them and just play a few more baseball games.’’
Actually, Vinson had nearly 50 friends and family filling the upper bleachers on the 3rd base side behind the Dans dugout and their favorite moment came in the fifth inning when the left-handed batting Vinson lined a solo home run over the right-center field fence. Well, it actually hit the top of the fence but the local boy got a hometown bounce for his first-ever hit and home run in the Prospect League.
“Hitting a home run always feels good, but doing it here at Danville Stadium, in my first game with the Dans, in front of my family and friends was awesome,’’ he said.
Unfortunately, Champion City catcher Alex Finney was able to bounce a grounder down the right-field line past Vinson, just barely inside the foul line according to home plate umpire Mike Macstudy for the eventual game-winning hit in the Kings 6-5 triumph.
“I thought the ball was foul, but they called it fair,’’ Coleman said. “That ended up being the game, but we had plenty of opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on before that. We had the bases loaded with one out in the first and we only got one run.
“We have to do a better job of situational hitting. It’s actually been a problem at times this summer. We just need to do a better job of putting the ball in play in those situations.’’
The Dans, who improved to 30-19 overall and 14-7 in the second half of the Wabash River Division, executed a little better in the second game turning 20 base runners into 12 runs as Danville claimed a split of the doubleheader with a hard-fought 12-11 triumph.
“When you almost blow a 9-run lead, but you are able to get the win, I guess you cherish it,’’ said Coleman, who called it just bad baseball. “I love this time of the year and I hate this time of the year. You are playing hard and battling for a playoff berth, but you always seem to have one of these games down the stretch.’’
So what made the second game a poor baseball contest?
Champion City and Danville combined for 18 walks, three hit-batters, two errors and one batter reaching on a dropped third strike.
“We have to do a better job of competing in the zone,’’ said Coleman, as the Dans saw its 9-0 lead shrink to the final margin with 7 walks and one hit-batter. “Fortunately, we were on the right side of the scoreboard.’’
A big reason for that was left-field Damian Stone, who drove home six runs on three consecutive plate appearances with the bases loaded in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Stone drew bases-loaded walks in the third and fifth frames, sandwiched around his monster grand slam over the right-field wall in the fourth.
“I didn’t even realize that I had three straight at-bats with the bases loaded,’’ Stone said. “I guess going 1-for-2 with six RBIs, including a grand slam, is what you would call having a good day.’’
Yes, that’s pretty good.
“I just looked in on my approach. I know what I can do and I just trusted my approach at the plate,’’ Stone added. “I knew that grand slam was gone right away and I definitely enjoyed watching it sail over the fence.’’
Stone also had a big-time, highlight play in the opener when he took an extra-base hit, possibly a home run away from Champion City’s Ben Ross.
“I would have enjoyed that much more with a win in that first game,’’ said Stone as the Kings snapped an eight-game win streak for the Dans.
“We know that we are not going to win every game,’’ Stone said. “The main thing is do what we do and keep striving every game for improvement.’’
The next home game for the Dans is today at Danville Stadium against the Alton River Dragons. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.
Vinson, who signed with NCAA Division I Morehead State earlier this month, said that he is very thankful for the opportunity.
“I wanted to make myself uncomfortable by facing some really good pitchers in this league,’’ he said. “This is great preparation for me before I get to Morehead and hopefully, it will open up some more opportunities for next summer.’’