DANVILLE — It would have been natural for Danville Area Community College right-hander C.J. Backer to have been extra cautious taking the mound in the second game of Saturday’s Mid-West Athletic Conference doubleheader against Heartland Community College at Danville Stadium.
Backer had just watched the Hawks put up 18 runs on 17 hits — 10 of them for extra bases — in an 18-4 triumph in the opening game of the four-game weekend series.
But the freshman from Newburgh, Ind., used that game as a tutorial.
For the first time this season, Backer went the distance to get the victory as DACC salvaged a split with a 6-3 win over Heartland in the second game of the doubleheader.
“I saw their bats and what I needed to execute against them,’’ said Backer, who had no walks and six strikeouts in seven innings. “I knew that I had to keep the ball low against them.
“My teammates also helped me out in the field.’’
Backer, who longest previous outing was six innings, gave up all three runs on four hits in the seventh inning but he still recorded earned the complete game victory.
“CJ is just a competitor. He has a lot of talent and a high ceiling,’’ said DACC coach Clayton Hicks. “He has a chance to be really good at this game. He just need to grow and develop.
“Today was the first time that he has gone past the sixth inning.’’
What made Saturday different for the right-hander?
“He attacked the zone and just made them try to beat him,’’ Hicks said. “It’s a huge step mentality more than anything. I think he knew he could do it physically but the mental block getting past the sixth inning has hinder him in the past.
“Today was huge. Extending into that seventh inning and finishing that game is good step forward in his growth.’’
It was also a welcomed sight for the Jaguars, who improve to 19-13 overall and 13-9 in the Mid-West Athletic Conference, especially after getting beat 18-4 in the first game.
“We came in a little lousy and lackadaisical,’’ said DACC freshman Jake Andriole. “We were able to bounce back. Our starting pitcher worked really well and our bats came alive.’’
Andriole had a big part in that offensive production in the second game. The left-handed hitting first baseman went 3-for-4 with two triples and a 2-run homer in the first inning for the Jaguars.
“My approach was a little off and I got a little pull happy,’’ said Andriole, who was 0-for-3 in the opener. “In the second game, I just tried to stay through the baseball.’’
Unlike the opening game where DACC never had a lead, Andriole’s blast to right field followed by a 2-run homer to left from Luke Barnes gave the Jaguars and Backer a 4-0 lead.
“I knew that if I did well in that first inning and we hit — it would give us energy,’’ Backer said. “Once I got a lead, that allowed me to go out and pitch.
“As you can see on the scoreboard, we didn’t have any errors. We really performed better in that second game. Everyone played well.’’
Hicks admitted the change started on mound for the Jaguars.
“CJ filled up the strike zone and made our guys believe,’’ he said. “Our offense can go with anyone. I truly believe that we can swing it with the best of them. You have to have pitching throw up some zeroes and keep the momentum on your side.’’
After the split on Saturday, Heartland (26-16 overall, 17-9 in league) maintains a two-game lead over DACC in the M-WAC standings, but the clubs are tied in the loss column.
“We are trying to win the series, so that we can move into third place,’’ Andriole said.
DACC, Heartland split on Sunday
NORMAL — Andriole followed up Backer’s pitching performance with a gem of his own on Sunday at Corn Crib in Normal.
The left-hander from Noblesville, Ind., held the Heartland to just one run on five hits as DACC won the opener of Sunday’s twinbill 7-1. The Hawks came back to win the second game, 11-1, to earn a split for the four-game series.
Andriole went the distance in the first game, allowing just five hits and walking just one batter while striking out three.
Leadoff hitter Andy Button and catcher Jonathan Latham led the way offensively with three hits each with Latham scoring twice for the Jaguars.
The second game was all Heartland as the Hawks pounded out 10 hits including a 2-run homer from Tyler Brandenberg in the fourth inning.
DACC is scheduled to host Lincoln Trail at 3 p.m. Wednesday in a non-conference contest. The next M-WAC series for the Jaguars is this weekend as DACC hosts Lewis & Clark on Friday before traveling to Godfrey on Sunday.