Adapt and overcome: Raiders’ Dance responds to one big swing by shutting down Cardinals in complete-game regional semifinal victory
QUINCY — Tyler Dance threw 34 innings during the Quincy Notre Dame baseball team’s regular season without allowing a home run.
One inning and 18 pitches into the postseason, that changed.
Pleasant Plains’ Zach Ponce led off the top of the second inning by driving a two-ball, two-strike curveball to left field for a home run, tying the game at 1 and testing Dance’s ability to adapt and overcome.
“I made a mistake with that pitch,” said Dance, the senior right-hander. “But I knew I had to get back to work and continue bringing it. Those guys are good over there. So I had to bring my stuff after that, lock back in and get ready.”
Dance retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced, benefitted from an offense that staked him to an eight-run lead through three innings and hurled a complete-game three-hitter in a 9-1 victory in Wednesday’s semifinals of the Class 2A QND Regional at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield.
The top-seeded Raiders (31-1) will face fifth-seeded Pittsfield (26-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the regional title game at The Ferd. The Saukees advanced with an 8-2 victory over Warrensburg-Latham in the other semifinal.
QND beat Pittsfield 14-4 on April 12, although neither team threw their anticipated Saturday starter in that game. Raiders senior right-hander Jake Schisler (6-0, 1.33 ERA) likely will go up against Saukees junior right-hander Brennan Tomhave (6-1, 1.98 ERA).
“We have an idea of how they move and how they play,” QND senior first baseman Dalton Miller said. “But we have to approach it like we do every game. We have to play our game.”
That includes leather and lasers.
The Raiders played errorless on defense, turning a double play after a leadoff single in the sixth and bookending the game with similar innings. In both the first and seventh innings, QND sandwiched groundouts around catcher Michael Stupavsky throwing out batters at first after they struck out on pitches out of the strike zone.
The Cardinals grounded out nine times and popped out three times.
“That’s definitely a security a lot of our pitchers have knowing the defense is behind them,” Miller said. “They can throw to contact and trust their fielders to make plays. That’s something that should definitely not be overlooked. Yeah, we’ll score runs and we’ll keep scoring, but our defense plays just as big a part in winning games.”
The offense did its share of scoring.
After Dance retired Pleasant Plains in order in the top of the first, Miller gave him the lead with a solo home run to right field. Despite the home run hit by Ponce in the second, the Raiders scored four times in the bottom of the inning with Colin Kurk and Schisler delivering back-to-back, two-out RBI singles and Tucker Tollerton following with a two-run double.
“There was a whole different kind of energy that I was really happy with,” Miller said. “Our team actually came out with some meaning and some purpose. That’s something I haven’t really seen since the beginning of the season. We were firing on all cylinders. We were picking each other up after guys made mistakes.
“You can’t beat that kind of energy in the postseason with a lot of fans here.”
QND tacked on four more runs in the third inning with three of those coming with two outs. Schisler had a two-run double and Tollerton added an RBI double.
Eight of QND’s nine runs were scored with two outs.
“Once we get going, it’s a train rolling from there,” Dance said.
He benefited from it. He struck out six, walked two and was in command during a 93-pitch effort.
“I felt good out there,” Dance said. “I know my guys have my back. That makes it easy to pitch.”
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