STANFORD — Mason Stamm knew when it was time to go.
Stamm was ready to run when his coach told him to be on the lookout for a wild pitch, and he pounced when the pitch bounced away from home plate, scoring the go-ahead run that allowed Danville to continue its dominance of the 45th District Tournament.
The Admirals won their ninth consecutive district championship, edging Lincoln County 2-1 in the title game Wednesday night at Lincoln.
Danville’s latest championship didn’t come easy. The 13th-ranked Admirals were locked in a compelling battle with Lincoln that became only the second one-run game during a string in which the Admirals have won nine straight district finals by an average of five runs per game.
“We really have to push through adversity, no matter what, we have to keep up the high standards of Danville baseball,” Stamm said. “It’s a little bit of responsibility, a little bit of pressure and a little bit of just becoming an Admiral.”
Stamm, a freshman who is playing in the postseason for the first time, stepped up in the fifth inning by scoring the deciding run. He came home from third base immediately after Danville coach Paul Morse told him to be ready to take off.
“Coach Morse told me right before the play, ‘Be ready here, be alive. This ball’s going in the dirt,’” said Stamm said. “Sure enough, the ball was in the dirt and I scored off of it. I saw it kick away from him and I went. I knew I was there.”
Stamm doubled with one out in the fifth inning, moved to third on a ground ball and beat the tag by Lincoln pitcher Michael Wilcher after catcher Boone Baird chased Wilcher’s pitch to the backstop.
“As a pitcher, you know he’d thrown a couple fastballs in a row, and you knew a breaking ball was about to come, so I just gave him a little tip: I said, ‘Be ready for a ball in the dirt,’” said Danville coach Paul Morse, a former pitcher. “He got a little bit farther down the line and got a great jump and made a good slide.”
After Danville (29-9) took the lead, pitcher Rob Caudill slammed the door in the sixth and seventh innings to allow the Admirals to add to their set of district championship trophies.
“It’s a tradition that those guys from nine years ago (started), and some of them are coaching for us now,” Morse said. “That’s something to pass on and that kids expect, and that helps you out. Tradition goes a long way in preparation and the kids’ focus and that kind of stuff. It’s something that they’re expected to do.”
Lincoln (20-17) has lost to Danville in the title game in each of the last two years, and the Patriots have lost 16 straight games to the Admirals since their last win in the series in 2003. They lost 8-1 in last year’s district final, but McNew said this was a tougher loss because it was such a close game.
“This one hurts,” McNew said. “If it had been 11-1, I’d have been telling you something completely different. But we had a good chance to win. But that’s a good thing going into the regional tournament, because that’s usually the way those games are.”
Both teams will advance to the 12th Region Tournament, which begins Monday at Danville.
Lincoln, the visiting team on its own field because it was the lower seed, led 1-0 after pushing across a run in the third inning, but Danville tied the game in the fourth and took the lead in the fifth.
The teams combined for only nine hits, and the four pitchers used in the game struck out 12 batters and walked only five. Both teams left five runners on base.
“It was a good game. All the pitchers from both teams threw the ball well,” Morse said.
Caudill earned the win after pitching the final three innings for Danville. He gave up leadoff hits in both the sixth and seventh innings, but neither runner made it past second base, and he struck out six of the 11 batters he faced.
Danville starter Austin Baxter allowed one run on four hits and struck out six batters in four innings.
On the other side, Lincoln’s Wilcher allowed two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in five innings, and reliever Logan Young allowed a lone single in the sixth inning before the Patriots turned their second double play of the game.
“They threw strikes for the most part. We threw the ball over the plate and let our defense play. Our defense has been our backbone,” McNew said.
Wilcher gave up a leadoff double to Danville’s Andrew Lasure in the fourth inning, and pinch-runner Kyle Lange advanced to third on a single by Dowell Harmon. After Rhodes Bell was intentionally walked, Cole Phillips singled through a drawn-in infield to drive in Lange with the tying run.
The bases remained loaded with nobody out, but Wilcher escaped further damage with a strikeout and a double play.
Stamm doubled with one out in the fifth inning and moved to third on a ground ball to set the stage for the tiebreaking score.
“I just was looking for a pitch inside that I could drive down the line, and I just got lucky and it was there, and I took advantage of it,” Stamm said.
Dylan King scored Lincoln’s lone run after drawing a leadoff walk in the third inning. He scored on Vinny Morris’ two-out, bases-loaded single over third base, but Danville escaped further damage when Stamm’s throw home from left field stopped Tanner Leigh in his tracks and Lasure threw back to third base before Leigh could retreat.
Lincoln is enjoying its winningest season in more than a decade, and McNew said the Patriots’ recent success, including their semifinal win over Boyle County on Tuesday, and their near-miss against Danville give them some momentum going into next week’s regional.
“This is the closest these guys have got to Danville, and it’s a big statement for this program,” he said. “We showed that we can play with these teams. Heading into the region tournament, I feel good about us. Our guys leave here tonight knowing they can play with anybody, and that’s a big thing going into that region tournament.”
Danville takes a seven-game winning streak into the regional, and Stamm said winning a close game this week could help the Admirals next week.
“We really needed this win. Lincoln County put up a good fight against us, and that’s what we needed to give us momentum going into the region,” he said.
45th District Tournament
At Lincoln County
Lincoln County 001 000 0 — 01 04 0
Danville 000 110 x — 2 5 0
Michael Wilcher, Logan Young (6) and Boone Baird, Vinny Morris (6). Austin Baxter, Rob Caudill (5) and Andrew Lasure. W—Caudill. L—Wilcher. 2B—Chase Pemberton (LC), Lasure (D), Mason Stamm (D).
Austin Baxter, Danville; Rhodes Bell, Danville; Zach Brown, Lincoln County; Rob Caudill, Danville; John Day, Lincoln County; Dowell Harmon, Danville; Andrew Lasure, Danville; Chase Pemberton, Lincoln County; Kody Ross, Boyle County; Ronnie Saylor, Garrard County; Michael Wilcher, Lincoln County.