CHARLESTON — Experience has its rewards.
For Danville Post 210 pitcher/first baseman Chase Vinson, today's appearance in the Great Lakes Regional will be his fourth and final one with the Speakers as they take on Swoyersville (Pa.) Post 644 in an first-round contest.
"It's awesome,'' Vinson said. "I don't take it for granted.
"The past three years, making it to this tournament has been some of the best times that I've had in my baseball career.''
The only thing missing for Vinson is a Great Lakes Regional title and a trip to the Legion World Series.
Danville has been one win short in each of the past two years, losing to Midland Berryhill in the championship game both times.
"Those still hurt to this day,'' Vinson admitted. "There are random times that you think what that experience could have been like.
"We are in the spot to get another opportunity.''
The Speakers (31-7-1) will need at least five wins over the next five days to reach the Elite Eight in legion baseball.
"I like our chances, if we make it to the weekend,'' said Danville manager Allan Shepherd. "We are going to be tough because we have the pitching.
"We have guys that can get the job done.''
But, Danville's first-round opponent Swoyersville (26-4) has three pitchers with ERAs under 2.00 this summer. And Swoyersville claimed its third Pennsylvania state title in the past six years with its victory, 2-1, over Hempfield East, who also advanced to the Great Lakes Regional.
"Honestly, they look a lot like us,'' Shepherd said.
So, what is going to be the key?
"If our pitchers throw strikes and our defense limits the errors, I think we will be just fine,'' said Vinson.
And the Post 210 Speakers might have a small home-field advantage as Coaches Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University is just over 64 miles from Danville Stadium.
"Hopefully, we will have a big crowd there supporting us,'' Vinson said. "After playing in Toledo (Ohio) the past two years, it's exciting to play in Charleston.''
But Shepherd is quick to point out that neither team has played a game on the renovated field at Coaches Stadium.
"You would think it will be easier, but I don't think it will be,'' said Shepherd, noting that Danville will be commuting each day. "I hope the travel doesn't get to us. I don't think it will, because they get to sleep in their own beds.
"But when we played in Toledo, I knew where they were at and what time they went to bed. I trust this group or I would have made them stay in the dorms like the other teams.''
Part of that trust that Shepherd has in his team came from the Illinois State Tournament.
All weekend, it was the coaches against the players in a prank war.
"I think I'm being plotted against right now,'' Shepherd said. "This team is so close and that's amazing with so many high schools that have combined for this team.
"As coaches, there is nothing that we did. They did it on their own and that's a pretty proud moment.''
That cohesive unit has won seven times this year in either come-from-behind situation or in its last at-bat.
"They don't quit,'' said Shepherd, noting that Danville won its state title over Barrington with a two-run eighth inning. "We have a lot of new guys, but you think they have been here a long time. They act like they've done it before and they keep plugging.''
The winner of today's game will advance to the 2 p.m. game on Thursday against the winner of the 8:30 a.m. game today between Hempfield (Pa.) and Lyon County (Ky.).
The other first games today will pit Gladwin (Mich.) against Beverly/Lowell (Ohio) at 11:45 a.m. with the host Charleston Post 93 taking on Terre Haute (Ind.) Post 346 at 5 p.m.
Great Lakes Regional
Danville Post 210 vs. Swoyersville (Pa.) Post 644
When — 2 p.m., today
Where — Coaches Stadium in Charleston
Records — Danville 31-7-1 overall; Swoyersville 26-4
Online — www.myradiolink.com/victory-103-9/
Up next — winner advances to play either Hempfield (Pa.) or Lyon County (Ky.) at 2 p.m. on Thursday
Batting average — Danville: Kotah Broeker .472; Chase Rademacher .431; Ernest Plummer .425, Trevor Davis .402, Chase Vinson .397; Swoyersville: Patrick Adamski .436, Garrett Vought .414, Nate Baranski .357, Colin Conway .333, Mike Kane .327.
Home runs — Danville: Vinson 3, Logan Spicer 2, Broeker 1, Plummer 1, Mason Ecker 1, Noah Ruch 1; Swoyersville: Kane 1, Draig Ruff 1.
RBIs — Danville: Spicer 40, Vinson 38, Broeker 31, Rademacher 31, Davis 28, Plummer 28; Swoyersville: Adamski 19, Tommy Federici 17, Ruff 15, Conway 13, Baranski 10.
Runs — Danville: Broeker 52, Plummer 48, Vinson 35, Spicer 34, Ecker 22, Lucas Hofer 22; Swoyersville: Adamski 18, Tyler O'Kane 16, Conway 15, Kane 15, Ruff 14.
Pitching wins — Danville: Ryan Drayer 7, Dalton Dalbey 5, Jake Stipp 5; Swoyersville: Adamski 5, Federici 5, Baranski 4.
ERA — Danville: Drayer 1.53, Romack 1.84, Elijah Harden 1.91; Swoyersville: Adamski 0.49, Baranski .73, Federici 1.53.
Strikeouts — Danville: Drayer 48, Stipp 40, Romack 37; Swoyersville: Baranski 34, Federici 30, Adamski 27.