By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- Milton coach Chace Phillips rubbed his eyes beneath his shades as he walked off the diamond Friday, almost as though he was making sure it wasn't all a mirage.
Those were actually smiling faces in his dugout, and there truly were 16 Black Panther runs on the scoreboard.
Mike Jacobs and Brady Chappell hit home runs that were just the sharp point of Milton's 18-hit attack, and Brennan Eves won his first varsity start in a 16-5 rout at Danville.
"I've been waiting for that for a long time," Phillips said. "We're struggling; they're struggling. I talked to Devin (Knorr, Danville's coach) before the game, and he said, 'One of us is going to break out here.' And I said, 'Well, one of us is going to have a good Friday night.'"
It's difficult to say which HAC-I team needed Friday's win more desperately. Milton had lost three consecutive games and six of its last seven; Danville had lost five in a row. Still, both teams are only a strong second-half run from the postseason, a goal that becomes less realistic with every loss.
The Ironmen (4-9, 3-7 HAC-I) matched the run production of their previous three games combined, and they were still within striking distance after five innings. However, the Black Panthers sent 13 batters to the plate in a crushing eight-run sixth highlighted by Chad Diggan's two-run ground-rule double to left-center field.
"We put ourselves, a couple times, in a position where we were right back in the game, and we don't do a good enough job of holding our focus. That's a very, very difficult obstacle for us right now," said Knorr. "At times we show glimpses of doing all the things we want to do as a ballclub. We get to 4-3 and within two or three minutes, all of a sudden, they're back up big on us. We fight back to 8-5, have a nice offensive inning and, again, it seems like in an instant we hand them momentum.