Three runs in the late innings propelled the Danville Dans to a 3-2 win over the visiting Dupage Dragons at Danville Stadium on Thursday evening.
Danville shortstop Austin Nola led off the eighth inning of the 2-2 game with what might be described as a rarely seen bloop triple. Nola was jammed on a ball that fell along the line in shallow right field and between three sprinting, diving Dupage fielders, who couldn’t retrieve it in time to prevent Nola from getting the key three-bagger. The next batter, Chris Lewellyn, lined an RBI single into center field to plate Nola with the deciding run.
It wasn’t looking good for Danville early, though. The Dragons opened the scoring with a run in the third. Brian Martin led off with a single and stole second on a confusing play, as he jogged slowly to second on an 0-2 pitch with the Danville infielders initially standing frozen. Dupage made Danville pay two batters later when Adam Davis knocked an RBI single into center for the early lead.
Dupage tallied another run an inning later. Danville seemed to be in good shape when the Dragons’ Sean Flanagan struck out with two outs, but he advanced to first when the ball got past Danville catcher Jason Hamm. Dupage's Andrew Brauer followed with an RBI triple down the right-field line that fell just out of the reach of a diving Austin Green.
Dragons starter Steve Sabatino cruised through the first six innings. After allowing a one-out Byron Williams single in the first and walking Jason Nappi, the lefty retired 16 of the next 17 Dans. Defying conventional pitching wisdom, Sabatino got nine of those 18 outs via fly balls. But his penchant for the flyout caught up to him in the seventh inning, when Dabo Worthington followed a Nappi leadoff single with a towering two-run home run far over the fence in left field to tie the game.
Despite his early brilliance, Sabatino took the loss, throwing seven innings and exiting after giving up hits to Nola and Lewellyn in the eighth. He allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four.
Danville reliever Kyle Donawerth grabbed the win with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Greg Houston picked up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth and was aided by a great play from first baseman Worthington, who reached into the Dupage dugout on a foul pop-up and secured the second out of the final frame. Starter Donavan Drake turned in a quality start for the Dans, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings while striking out five.
Williams led Danville with two hits, and Worthington was 1-for-3 with the home run, two RBIs and a walk. Martin and shortstop Barrett Serrato each went 2-for-4 for the Dragons.
Danville improves to 25-20 with the win. The Dans play at division-leading Quincy on Friday evening before returning home to again face Quincy in a doubleheader Saturday. First pitch for the opener Saturday is 5:30 p.m.