Witten, Durham will be heart of Danville's order for years to come

May 27, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

The Danville Admirals will face questions in the coming seasons, just as every team does as players graduate and others grow up to take their place.

But one thing seems certain: The most important positions in the Danville lineup are set for years to come. At the heart of the order is a pair of young players who have already established themselves as consistent hitters.

Rich Witten and Deangleo Durham, who hit third and fourth, respectively, are the Admirals' leading hitters and two key reasons why Danville is in position to win its first district title in nine years and on its way to the regional tournament for the first time in six years.

"It'd be my first time winning the district and my first time going to the region, so it means a lot to me," Durham said.


They figure to be the cornerstones of the offense long after this season ends.

"Those guys are going to be our three and four hitters for the next three or four years to come, and that's something you can build on," Danville coach Paul Morse said.

Both have been hitting near .500 of late

Both Durham and Witten have been hitting near .500 through the second half of the season. They are also two of the team's top pitchers, and they are among the linchpins for a relatively young team trying to make regional appearances a regular part of the season.

"This will make us that much more prepared and experienced for years to come," Witten said. "We're planning for the next three or four years to make this an annual habit."

Hitting has become a habit for Durham, a sophomore, and Witten, a freshman.

"They've been hitters all their lives," Morse said. "At whatever level they've played at, they've always hit."

Durham, who led Danville in batting average last year at .475, and this season he's hitting .458 (44-for-96) with five home runs and 24 RBIs.

He ranks second in average only to Witten, who is hitting .486 (35-for-72) - even after going hitless for the first time this season in his last game - with nine homers and a team-high 38 RBIs.

Witten missed the first week of the season with an illness, then missed a couple more games when he sprained both ankles in the same game soon after his return. He said while those woes kept him from getting on track on the mound, they didn't hurt his hitting.

"I've improved a lot since last year," he said.

Ads have area's best record

That's one reason Danville has fashioned the area's best record at 22-11. The Admirals will play Lincoln County or Casey County for the district championship later this week, and they already have an entry in the regional tournament next week at North Laurel.

Durham and Witten say the Danville players aren't surprised by what they've accomplished, though others might be.

"They thought (because) we haven't got any experience they thought they could walk over us easy," Durham said.

Now the Admirals are about to steer into uncharted territory, at least for most of them. Danville's last district title came in 1995, and only two current players have seen the regional tournament from field level.

Witten said those two, Joey Beldon and Davis Teater, who previously played for other schools, tried to inspire the other players before Danville's elimination game Tuesday against Boyle County by telling them about their limited regional experiences.

"They said it's good to be there, and we need to get there," Witten said.

And even though most of the Admirals have never experienced it for themselves, they're looking forward to the challenges of the next level.

"We definitely have to step it up and play even harder than what we have," Durham said.

"It's the first time for us," added Witten, "but we've all played enough baseball to know what big games are like."

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