An early lead wasn’t enough for Crawfordsville as they lost their Sagamore Conference baseball opener 6-4 to Danville.
Scoring the first three runs, the Athenians fell behind in the middle innings and then couldn’t get a late hit as they fall to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference, while the Warriors move to 2-1 and 1-0.
“The baseball gods didn’t smile on us today,” Cville coach Brett Motz said. “We got the early lead and we got guys on base in both the sixth and seventh when we were down. We had confidence in the hitters and in the situation, but in the end, we struck out too many times and should have put the ball in play more.”
For Danville coach Pat O’Neil, the win was the first conference win since he became a cancer survivor two years ago, and the first since his wife Carol passed away from cancer only five months ago.
“Baseball has kept me going,” O’Neil said. “The administration, the parents, the team and the fans have been so supportive. It is good to be out here. I just love these guys to death.”
The Warriors got three runs in the third and another three in the fourth to tie the game and then take the lead. Preston Heffernan pitched into the sixth inning and picked up his second win of the season. Eli Webb got the save.
For the Athenians, Cale Coursey started and also pitched into the sixth, picking up the loss. The sophomore walked two and struck out five.
Henry Taylor led the offense, reaching base four times, including two hits. He scored twice and drove in a run.
Caleb Coons and Sam Decker scored the other two runs. Decker and Coursey had RBIs.
The Athenians started the scoring in the second when Taylor reached on a single and eventually came in when Decker was hit by a pitch, one of the five that Heffernan plunked. That was the only run, however, and the home team left the bases loaded.
In the third, Coons reached on a fielder’s choice and came across on a Taylor triple. Taylor was only on base for two pitches as he scored on a Coursey double. The Athenians left two more on base.
In the fifth, the gods were the most unhappy as with bases loaded and no one out, a double play ruined the momentum and two runners were left.
The final run came in the sixth, when Decker walked and moved up two bases on two wild pitches., and then scored on a passed ball. Cville left two more on in that sixth, and stranded two more in the seventh, a total of 11 on the night.
“That double play was really tough,” Motz said. “I love the fight. We didn’t fold, back down or give up. We put ourselves in position three straight innings, but in the end, just didn’t get the job done. We learn a lot about ourselves as we move forward, about how we respond.”
Coursey struck out five and walked two in his 5.2 innings of work. Freshman Kale Wemer came in to relieve the sophomore and finished up, striking out and walking one while giving up a hit.
“Coursey was really on his game early.” Motz said of the sophomore. “We got him some runs, but Danville started swinging at some more pitches and his stuff leveled off a bit.”
The Warriors got their three in the fourth when Comer tripled to start the inning, and scored on a Toney single. After a hit batter put one more on, an infield out and a single by Wesley Wright scored two.
In the fifth, Caden Whitehead and Comer singled to open, and both scored on a Toney triple. Toney scored on an infield out.
Heffernan won his second start and allowed four hits, four runs, walked four and struck out eight, in addition to hitting five. Webb walked three and struck out three to pick up the save.
“Heffernan really battled,” O’Neil said of the senior, “and our defense really came up big. The double play was huge and guys like (Tony) Ramirez tracked down some fly balls. Webb had a big outing against Plainfield with eight strikeouts and he has made the commitment to the team after I almost cut him.”
The two teams head to Danville for the second game of the series Wednesday. The Sagamore Conference has changed its scheduling to games usually on Tuesday/Wednesday instead of the Tuesday/Thursday format of earlier years.
The Warriors will tentatively go with Wesley Wright on the mound, while the Athenians will go with Taylor, who is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA.