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Danville Dans News
Danville Dans Video Recap for June 5, 2022
Featuring Josh Leerssen, Wesley Helms and Kevin Fee
June 1, 2022 Recap
FORMER DAN JOSH SMITH HITS THE MAJORS
When he came to Danville as a new high school graduate in 2016, it became obvious that Josh Smith had the potential to make his mark in professional baseball. That likelihood came to fruition on Monday when Smith was the starting third baseman for the Texas Rangers, getting a single during his first at-bat.
Smith was drafted as a high school senior in the 38th Round while he was with the Dans in 2016 but chose to honor his commitment to attend LSU. He was then selected in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees. Smith was part of a 2021 trade that sent him to the Rangers organization. He was hitting .273 in 40 games with Triple-A Round Rock this season before getting the call for Monday night’s game.
Smith was one of six 2016 Dans named to the mid-season All-Star Game in the Prospect League. He becomes the 32nd Danville Dan to put on a major league uniform – including the fourth that have been coached by current Dans manager Eric Coleman.
Pitching, timely offense carry Dans past Pistol Shrimp
By Chad Dare, Commercial-News
Power pitching and timely hitting are two key ingredients for successful baseball teams.
The 2022 Danville Dans had both areas covered in their season-opening 8-4 victory over the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp before 578 at Danville Stadium.
Right-handers Jackson Conn and Khal Stephen combined to strike out 17 batters, while the Dans (1-0) got a pair of two-run hits from Will Carpenter and Bryce Chance in the late innings.
“That was a good win in front of our crowd,” said Danville Dans manager Eric Coleman, in his ninth season with the team. “We always want to protect the house. I thought our guys came ready to play. I think it’s going to be a fun summer. I like this group. They want to get better and they want to be here.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Stephen, a sophomore-to-be from Purdue who got the victory for the Dans as he struck out 10 batters in five innings of relief, is a former standout from Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, Ind.
“It was a lot of fun. The energy was definitely up and the our crowd was really into the game,” said Stephen, who was supported by his entire family.
Stephen, who was 3-4 with an 8.29 ERA in his freshman season with the Boilermakers, knew his role on Wednesday was long relief but he had no idea that he would throw 77 pitches in five innings.
“I definitely didn’t see that coming into this game,” said Stephen, who threw 33.2 innings in 23 appearances at Purdue. “I was hitting my spots and things were going right. It was just a good situation.”
Coleman noted that extending Stephen is part of the plan for him this summer.
“There is a reason why they are projecting him to be a weekend starter at Purdue,” Coleman said. “His numbers tonight show it. I saw him pitch a couple times this spring on television and I was really impressed. It was a no-brainer to get him here in Danville. I think he is going to have a big summer for us.”
The only blemish on Stephen’s opening performance was hitting three batters, one of them scored in the ninth on a double by Isaiah Hart.
“That comes with the game. I missed on some pitches,” he said. “All three of them were called for inside fastballs. It was just a matter of missing by a couple of inches. I will learn from this and get better.”
The 6-foot-4 right-hander added, “getting in on their hands is a good way to attack hitters.”
Before Stephen entered in the fifth inning, the Dans got four innings from Conn, a 6-7 righty from Northeast Community College. He allowed three runs, but only one was earned, as he walked five and struck out seven.
“We have to do a better job of pitching to contact,” said Coleman was was pleased with the 17 strikeouts by his staff. “Some of that could have been first-game jitters, but it’s always good to get the win.”
And when the Dans scored three times in the bottom of the eighth to give them eight runs, it turned into the first Culver’s ButterBurger Bash of the season.
“That’s always good for the fans,” Coleman said. “I know they raised it a run this season, so that means we have score eight now instead of seven.
"We always want to please our fans. They are a part of why we have been so successful here over the years.”
Honestly, it didn’t look like Danville was going to get anywhere near the eight runs needed this year for a ButterBurger Bash as the Dans managed just single runs in the first and fourth innings off of Illinois Valley starter Tyler Conklin.
But, things quickly changed in the sixth inning.
Will Carpenter, an infielder from Wichita State, broke a 3-3 tie with his two-run single to right that scored Chase Vinson, who went 1-for-3 with two runs scored, and Gray Bane, who had just tied the game with an run-scoring single to left.
“It was only a matter of time until the offense got clicking,” said Carpenter. “One hit changes everything because hitting is contagious.”
That was certainly true for Carpenter, who had struck out in his first two plate appearances against Conklin.
“Those were rough. I was just trying to get my timing down and obviously, I was very late,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about it when it’s over other than make adjustments in your third at-bat.”
So, what did Carpenter do differently against Conklin, who gave up five runs in 5.1 innings?
“In my second at-bat, were taking until we got a strike,” he said. “The next time I came up, I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I was hunting a first-pitch fastball, trying to get a good pitch to hit and drive it.”
Carpenter added a third RBIs with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning before Chance lined a two-out, two-run double into the right-center field gap.
Danville scored its first run of the game on a solo homer to right by shortstop Seaver Sheets.
Baseball Legend To Be on Dans Coaching Staff in 2022
The Danville Dans are excited to announce that renowned baseball coach Ron Polk will be part of their coaching staff for the 2022 season.
Polk has 52 years of experience coaching NCAA-D1 teams and has compiled one of the most successful winning records. His resume includes 1,373 wins, eight trips to the College World Series, six Hall of Fames inductions, and seven tours as a USA Baseball coach.
(Photo from Commercial-News: Mississippi State interim president Vance Watson, right, stands with baseball head coach Ron Polk during the pregame presentation which concluded Polk’s 29th baseball season on May 17, 2008.)
Coach Polk has coached at Georgia Southern University and University of Arizona but is most famous for his 29 years as head coach of the Mississippi State baseball team. He has also coached summer baseball in the Cape Cod League for the last eight years.
With a total of 31 seasons as a head coach in the SEC, Polk is often referred to as the “Father of Southeastern Conference Baseball.”
Polk’s unmatched expertise will benefit the college athletes from across the country who come to Danville, IL to develop their baseball skills during the upcoming Prospect League season.
“Anytime you get to work with a baseball legend like Coach Polk, it’s an honor,” said Dans manager, Eric Coleman. “His knowledge of the game is second to none. We couldn’t be more excited for our players and coaches to learn from him this summer.”
Polk’s coaching technics get results. Nearly 200 of the players he has coached have signed professional baseball contracts, with 29 of those athletes played in Major League Baseball. Eight of those major leaguers were first round draft picks. This success is why his textbook, The Baseball Playbook, is the chosen teaching tool at 450 colleges and has sold more than 125,000 copies.
Polk has been a longtime friend of the Dans. About 33 years ago, he first sent one of his staff to coach in Danville. He even traveled to Danville to be a guest speaker at a local sports banquet.
“Our coaching staff and players will learn a lot from him.” said Rick Kurth, Danville Dans co-owner. “I believe his time here will lead to some pretty exciting games, too. After all, we’re all about player development and a fun time at the ballpark. It’s a genuine honor to have Ron Polk join the Danville Dans.”
Another Dan Becomes a Major Leaguer
For the second time in a week, a Danville Dan has made his MLB debut.
Relief pitcher Bryan Baker tossed a scoreless 8th inning September 5 for the Toronto Blue Jays in their win against the Oakland A’s. The 2014 Dan struck out one and allowed one hit during his inning.
Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 11th Round in 2016 as a junior out of North Florida. He was traded to the Blue Jays in 2018. At Triple-A, Baker was in 33 games with a 4-1 record and nine saves. He has struck out 40 while walking 16 with a 1.32 ERA.
Baker becomes the 31st Danville Dan to put on a major league uniform.
Rivas Becomes 30th Dan To Make It To The Majors
On Sunday, August 29, Alfonso Rivas - a 2016 Dan - went 2-3 as the starting 1st baseman for the Chicago Cubs. He hit a single on the first pitch he saw in the 3rd, and added a double in the 5th. He becomes the 30th Danville Dan to appear in a MLB game. The Arizona Wildcat was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 10th round of the 2018 draft, and was traded to the Cubs in January 2020. This summer at Triple-A Iowa, he hit .284 in 58 games.