The Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp made history Sunday.
The Shrimp saw their four-run lead erased then overcame a four-run deficit to upset the Danville Dans, 11-10, in the Prospect League’s Wabash River Division championship game in Danville for the Shrimp’s first playoff victory in franchise history.
The Shrimp (39-21), who lost their only other playoff game in their inaugural season in 2019, will play the Chillicothe Paints (39-22) in the Eastern Conference championship game at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Schweickert Stadium in Peru.
The Paints beat the Johnstown Mill Rats, 16-0, in the Ohio River Valley Division title game Sunday.
“This is uncharted territory for our young franchise and our fans to be division champions and playing in a conference championship,” Shrimp owner/manager John Jakiemiec said.
The Shrimp scored four runs in the top of the first inning on an RBI double by Zach Lane, a sacrifice fly by Tucker Bougie and RBI singles by Alton Gyselman and Garry Maynard.
The Shrimp led 5-1 after the top of the fourth inning before the Dans exploded for six runs in the fourth.
The Dans extended their lead to 10-6 with two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth.
In the seventh, Ottawa graduate Evan Evola hit a sacrifice fly to score Lane, and Bougie scored on a wild pitch to cut the Shrimp’s deficit to 10-8.
The Shrimp completed their comeback with three runs in the eighth.
Alex Rakas scored on an error, Lane laid down a squeeze bunt to tie the game, and Gyselman singled to right field to plate Bougie for the winning run.
“It was just a crazy back-and-forth game where we were up big early, we had one bad inning, and they took the lead. But all year long, these guys have had runs in them,” Jakiemiec said. “We knew we had to just chip away, get a run here, get a run there. If we get a chance, we have been finding ways to win.”
Nick Laxner earned the win with five innings of relief. He allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out two and walking three.
In the bottom of the ninth, he got the first two batters out before walking back-to-back batters. Laxner ended the game by inducing a groundout.
“Nick Laxner came in and pitched great for us,” Jakiemiec said. “He got two outs in the ninth and all of a sudden started thinking about being this close. He ended up walking a couple guys, but he was able to calm himself down and get through it.”
The win was the fourth in a row for the Shrimp, including a 10-9 walk-off win in 11 innings Friday to clinch a playoff berth and a 3-2 victory Saturday at Lafayette – that secured the No. 2 seed for the Shrimp – in which pitcher Jason Shanner made the lineup with pitchers playing the field and position players pitching.
“They are excited,” Jakiemiec said. “It’s like being in a rock band and going on to the next show. We’re just living in the moment and enjoying each other. Guys have been saying, ‘Coach, I have to change my flight,’ but they’re saying it with a smile on their face. It’s just been a tremendous ride. These guys are very tired, but they’re having a lot of fun.
“From Friday’s dramatic ending to Saturdays bizzaro position player pitching and pitchers in the field to tonight’s come-from-behind win, I have never been a part of three games like that. I know our players will never forget it, and I know I won’t either.”