DANVILLE — DANVILLE — The first sectional crown since 1990 was not going to come easy for the Danville baseball team, as they squandered an early 5-0 advantage against Beech Grove Monday night.
However, behind some timely hitting and dominance on the mound in the late innings, the Warriors defeated the Hornets 6-5 for their first sectional title in over two decades.
“These kids just believed,” first-year Danville coach Brady Armstrong said. “We were in so many games this year and just couldn’t finish.
“We knew that we had something with these kids. They are grinders. They grinded all winter. There were kids that were there at 6 a.m. to hit before school. There is no drama on this team. I just couldn’t be prouder of our kids.”
Danville scored early as D.J. Eckert singled to start the rally in the bottom of the first. Alex Bilyeu picked up an RBI single and went to third on an fielding error. Then, Daniel Dieckmann flied out to left and Bilyeu was caught at the plate attempting to score, putting the Warriors ahead, 1-0.
Danville continued their run, as they crossed the plate four times in the bottom of the third.
Jake Marckel led off and was hit by a pitch. Austin Allen then attempted a bunt and reached on a throwing error. John Fuson singled up the middle to score Marckel. Eckert drove in Allen with a single and Bilyeu scored on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a throwing error. Dieckmann walked and Tyler Bradshaw reached on an error to load the bases. Zach Blankenship perfectly executed a squeeze play to score Bilyeu and the Warriors led, 5-0.
Beech Grove finally broke through in the top of the fourth.
Jordan Sloan led off with a double to deep left center and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Tyler Wyatt tripled to deep right, scoring Sloan. Dalton Ledgerwood scored Wyatt on an RBI groundout.
The Hornets tied the game in the top of the sixth as Sloan led off with a single. Wyatt then reached on an error to put runners at the corners with nobody out and Jonathan Cincebox doubled, knocking in Sloan and Wyatt.
Danville decided to insert Eckert on the mound. He responded by inducing a groundout and picking up a strikeout. However, Cincebox scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 5-5.
“Give Beech Grove credit,” Armstrong said. “They battled back, but then our horse came in. (Eckert) said to me ‘coach, give me the ball.’ He was coming off 118 pitches (earlier in the day). I’m just privileged to have a kid like that.”
The Warriors regained the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth as Seth Tollison doubled to the right center field gap with one out. Allen then blooped a single over the second baseman to score Tollison.
The drama was still not over until the last out as Eckert and the Warriors’ defense allowed the Hornets to load the bases with two outs in the seventh.
Eckert and the Warriors were able to overcome that final obstacle and claimed the title.
Danville now heads into regional play to face Brebeuf at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 1 at Mt. Vernon (Fortville).