It wasn’t the win Danville wanted most, but it was the one it had to have.
The Admirals aspire to do big things in the small-school state tournament, but they wouldn’t get the chance if they couldn’t beat Somerset on Tuesday night.
They used timely hitting to clear the first major hurdle on their way to the All “A” Classic, defeating Somerset 8-4 to win the 12th Region All “A” Classic for the third straight year and the eighth time overall.
Danville needs only one more win to reach the statewide tournament for the first time since 2007, and coach Paul Morse said that’s the one win the Admirals are focused on.
“What they’ve mainly been talking about is trying to take it to the next level,” Morse said. “That’s their goal.”
The 10th-ranked Admirals believe they can compete for the small-school championship — if they can only get to the tournament.
“It’s a goal for us every year to win it and end our season at Whitaker Bank (Ballpark),” said catcher Andrew Lasure, who went 3 for 4 to help Danville polish off Somerset.
The Admirals will host the 9th Region champion, which will be determined next week, in a sectional game April 25 for the right to advance to the eight-team state tourney May 5-6 in Lexington.
Lasure and Rhodes Bell, who had two hits, each drove in three runs Tuesday for Danville (11-1), which got four of its six hits with runners in scoring position.
“Both of their guys threw over 85 pitches, so we made their pitchers work, and that’s a big thing. We’ve really been preaching over the last week or so, ‘Even if you get out, make it a quality out, get something out of it,’” Morse said. “We’ve talked about getting that clutch hit with runners in scoring position, and we’re starting to do that.”
Lasure said Morse’s message got through.
“We were just taking our time, seeing some pitches, working the count, getting quality at-bats,” he said.
He said the Admirals didn’t let the frigid weather bother them even as the temperature plunged to about 40 degrees by the end of the 2-hour, 56-minute game that started more than 45 minutes late.
“We just played through it tonight since it’s the All ‘A,’” Lasure said.
Lasure started the scoring in a three-run first inning with an RBI single after Mason Stamm’s sacrifice bunt. After Dowell Harmon walked, Bell doubled to right-center field to score Lasure and Harmon came home on a wild pitch.
The Admirals added three more runs in the second inning, scoring one on an error and two on another single by Lasure to take a 6-1 lead.
Somerset (7-3) scored twice in the third inning on one hit, three walks and a hit batsman, and Morse said it was becoming obvious by then that the Briar Jumpers were trying to take advantage of the fact that starter Rob Caudill was struggling with his control.
“By about the third inning, you could see how their philosophy flip-flopped from being really aggressive to taking a lot of pitches,” Morse said. “I think (Somerset coach Phillip Grundy) realized that their way to stay in the game was for us to either walk guys or make errors.”
Caudill and reliever Tyler Beldon allowed only four hits between them — all doubles — but they combined to walk or hit 13 batters.
“Our pitchers made it easy on them by throwing way too many balls,” Morse said.
On the other hand, the Jumpers stranded 14 runners, leaving the bases loaded three times.
“They beared down when they needed to and got us out of it,” Morse said of his pitchers.
Caudill allowed only one hit and had eight strikeouts before leaving the mound after walking the leadoff batter in the fifth inning. Nine of the 17 batters Beldon faced in three innings reached base, but only one of them scored.
Beldon got a popup with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning, a groundout with runners on second and third to end the sixth and a strikeout with the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate to end the game.
Bell gave Danville an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and another with a double in the seventh.
12th Region All “A” Classic
Somerset 102 001 0 — 4 4 1
Danville 330 011 x — 8 6 1
Charlie Dishman, Heath Ehrsam (3) and Storm Wilson, Dishman (3). Rob Caudill, Tyler Beldon (5) and Andrew Lasure. W—Caudill. L—Dishman. 2B—Rhodes Bell (D) 2, Jarred Price (S), Wilson (S) 2, Taylor Speaks (S), Lasure (D).