Duffy's homer helps his cause as Danville tops Southern Columbia

May 13—DANVILLE — Cole Duffy hadn't impacted a game this season with both his right arm and bat in the way he did Monday.

The Danville junior was intent on throwing a good ballgame against fellow district qualifier Southern Columbia and content to let his teammates provide support at the plate.

That was before he crushed a three-run homer in the third inning that upended the Heartland Athletic Conference crossover battle and carried the Ironmen to a 5-2 win.

"It feels great. My main focus today was pitching because this was a big game for our team's future, and the bat just kind of came with it," said Duffy, who also doubled in a 2-for-3 effort. "I wasn't really expecting it. I haven't really been hitting the ball that well lately, but I think it's turning around.

"It feels great for our team."

Danville (15-4) scored all five of its runs on four hits in the third, while Duffy pitched one-hit ball for five innings. He struck out six, walked three and hit a batter, allowing two runs in the fourth when a leadoff double was compounded by two balk calls in short order.

It was Duffy's best outing since he fanned nine over five one-hit innings to beat Central Columbia on April 8.

"Cole, I thought, had his best stuff. He came out and mixed speeds, mixed locations, and was on top of his game," said Ironmen coach Devin Knorr. "He worked around a couple walks (to open the first and third innings), but when you get to a spot where we're throwing strikes and moving the ball around the plate, Cole's tough on the mound. We played clean defense behind him, too, and that's important.

"That's a big win against a good team."

Wyatt Shultz allowed one hit in two scoreless frames for a save as Danville strengthened its grip on the District 4 Class 4A No. 1 seed.

Southern Columbia (10-7), which is part of a wide-open District 4 Class 2A field, had won eight of 10 games including four of its last five.

Tigers sophomore Caden Hopper retired the first seven batters he faced to match zeroes with Duffy into the third inning.

Eli Welliver ended the streak with by looping a first-pitch Texas Leaguer to center field. Carter Raup followed with a shot to left-center that ticked off the outstretched glove of diving center fielder Brayden Andrews for a double.

Duffy followed by cranking a 1-1 fastball well over the fence in the left-center alley.

"I just seemed like it was a little unfortunate," said Southern coach Mike Myers. "As far as that flare, that happens. (Then) we made a good play on the (double) and didn't come up with it.

"So it was kind of an inning that could have been absolutely nothing that turned into something big."

Tigers second baseman Ethan Makowski took away a potential second-inning hit when he ranged to his right to snare a Jack Gibson liner. The Ironmen put good swings on a few other pitches early on that were handled by Southern fielders. Hopper allowed only the three consecutive hits before he was lifted with two down in the third.

"First couple innings, we hit some balls at them and didn't have anything to show for it," said Knorr, who beat his alma mater for a fourth straight time and matched the program's most wins in his 18 seasons. "(Then in the third) Eli hits a ball that finds a hole, get a guy on; another well-struck ball by Carter Raup puts two guys on; and then Duff made just great contact ... and we're in a three-nothing game.

"And three felt like a huge number the way both guys were pitching. If we can get a three-spot like that, almost instantaneously, that's a huge number to put up in a tight game."

It was Duffy's first varsity homer and the second in his baseball career. He said Monday's swing was so pure he didn't feel it.

"Before we got all those runs, we came in the dugout and said, 'We need some here; we're having a little pitching duel,'" Duffy said. "When they got on base (ahead of me), I'm just, like, 'All right ... I just need to get a base hit and score one.' I was looking for my pitch, and I hit it — and I'm not a big power guy — and I was running down to first and I pointed to our first-base coach, Coach (Matt) Diltz, and I said, 'That's out!'

"I was pretty amped up."

Danville added two third-inning runs off Tigers reliever Brecken Reamer with three consecutive two-out singles by Reece McCarthy, Shultz and Gibson.

Myers noted two mistakes — a failure to cover the bag on an infield hit to the right side and a missed cut-off — that cost the Tigers two runs and a potential 3-2 score.

"Those are the things I can't get away from and that we need to clean up," he said. "You can't mentally break down. It's something we've not been doing, but it's something we need to clean up in order to give ourselves a chance in the playoffs."

Hopper led off the fourth with a double, went to third on a fielder's choice, and scored on a balk. Hunter Sharrow, who was safe on the fielder's choice, moved to third on consecutive walks and scored on a groundout.

Duffy struck out two in a bounce-back fifth, and Shultz added three more strikeouts to close the combined two-hitter.



Southern Columbia;000;200;0 — 2-2-0

Danville;005;000;0 — 5-7-0

Caden Hopper, Brecken Reamer (3) and Charles Hopper. Cole Duffy, Wyatt Shultz (6) and Jack Gibson.

WP: Duffy. LP: Ca. Hopper. S: Shultz.

Southern Columbia: Ca. Hopper 1-for-3, double, run; Hunter Sharrow run; Andrew Yost RBI; Ayden Hockenbroch 1-for-2, double.

Danville: Duffy 2-for-3, home run (3rd, 2 on), run, 3 RBIs; Reece McCarthy 1-for-3, run; Shultz 1-for-3, run, RBI; Gibson 1-for-3, RBI; Eli Welliver 1-for-3, run; Carter Raup 1-for-3, double, run.