Birthday blasts

Danville Braves player Bryce Ball hit two home runs on July 8, his 21st birthday. 

You may be cool, but you’re not Bryce Ball going yard twice on his birthday, cool. 

Ball celebrated his 21st birthday in style, smacking a pair of home runs in Danville’s 6-4 victory over Burlington on Monday night. 

“I don’t think it was any different than the first game of the season,” Ball said. “I just showed up like it was any other day. Twenty-first or not, it was another day so I was going to show up, put in the work and have a good day at the plate. Nothing else was really going to change. It was just another day.” 

Adding in some sweetener, Ball’s two-run shot to right field in the eighth proved the difference as it drove in the eventual game-winning runs. 

“I knew I was going to be playing baseball on my 21st birthday,” Ball laughed, after being asked if he envisioned his birthday turning out like it did. “The announcer [Jay Stephens] put it on over the speaker and people started going crazy. I love it here. I love Danville. I love the people that watch us come out and play. It’s a really loyal fanbase and I love it here. They’re great people.”

Ball’s eighth-inning shot defined the term “bomb” as it disappeared into the woods behind the wall in right. 

“I don’t do any of that stuff,” Ball chuckled, when asked if he thought about doing a little grandstanding after his shot. “I’m not a big showboater or whatever you want to call it. I knew I got it on contact but you just put down the bat, keep your head down and run the base.” 

Danville (10-10) hasn’t been a stranger to drama this season and it had to endure a little bit more against Burlington on Monday. 

Trailing 4-2, down to their final six outs, the Royals tried to play come back kids, pulling within 4-3, on Vinnie Pasquantino’s run-scoring double to left in the eighth. 

Burlington (9-11) had two more chances to bring Pasquantino home with the tying run, but Danville reliever Tanner Gordon performed out of the stretch, recording a ground out and strike out to get out of the frame. 

Ball’s eighth-inning blast gave the D-Braves a 6-3 lead after eight, negating Jay Charleston’s RBI ground out in the ninth that would’ve knotted the score. 

Ball paced the D-Braves with three RBIs against Burlington. 

July 1 Opener

Danville opened the week with a 6-2 victory over Bluefield on July 1. 

Baseball is a game often decided by one or two innings and the D-Braves’ contest against Bluefield wasn’t any different. 

Charles Reyes’ first professional grand slam highlighted a five-run fourth for the D-Braves that gave them a 5-0 lead. Reyes’ shot also marked his first professional home run as well. 

Reyes became the third player, joining Ray Hernandez and Willie Carter, to hit a grand slam this season for the Braves. 

Ball opened the flood gates in the fourth, driving in Carter with a run-scoring base knock to center that broke the seal and gave Danville a 1-0 lead. 

Reyes paced the D-Braves with four RBIs against Bluefield (11-9). 

Youth was the theme for Danville’s pitching against the Blue Jays. Starter Darius Vines made his first start in Danville count, throwing two innings of one-hit, shutout ball. Reliever Ricky DeVito made his Danville debut as well, closing out the eighth and ninth while allowing two hits, no runs and striking out three. 

Mitch Stallings (2-0) continued to impress, throwing five innings of middle relief and striking out four. In his last three appearances, Stallings has struck out 20 batters. 

It was Bluefield’s turn next to take advantage of a big inning as the Blue Jays scored nine runs in the top of the fifth in the second of the 3-game set on July 2. 

Joseph Reyes (bases-loaded walk), Anthony Morales (bases-loaded walk), Scott Bradley (three-run double), a Danville throwing error and Spencer Hortwitz (three-run double) accounted for the offensive onslaught in the fifth. 

Danville trimmed its deficit a bit in the sixth, plating two runs to pull within six. Michael Mateja recorded a RBI ground out and Reyes’ ground ball to second scored Cody Birdsong with the frame’s second run. 

Mateja paced the D-Braves, recording a career-high four RBIs. 

Series Finale

In the finale of the 3-game set, Bluefield scored a combined nine runs over the fifth and ninth on its way to a 14-5 win. 

Leonardo Jimenez (RBI sacrifice fly), Horwitz (run-scoring single and steal of home) and Reyes (RBI single) accounted for a four-run fifth that helped the Blue Jays overcome a 3-2 deficit and take the lead. 

Andres Guerra (bases-loaded walk), D.J. Daniels (run-scoring knock), Addison Barger (two-run double and Jimenez (RBI double) all chipped in during a five-run fifth that put the game out of reach. 

Ball led Danville with a trio of RBIs against the Blue Jays and Brandon Chapman chipped in with two. 

Danville took to the road on July 4, traveling to Princeton for a 3-game set. 

The D-Braves posted a 4-2 record over the course of their first road trip last week. However, life on the road wasn’t as kind to Danville as it was last week. 

Princeton (10-10) lit up Danville pitching for 14 runs over the first three innings in its 14-8 victory over the D-Braves on July 4. 

Jake Guenther got the the Devil Rays on the board with his RBI single to left in the first and Diego Infante capped off the three-run frame with a two-run blast to left for his second home run of the season. 

Bret Wisley (RBI double), Nick Schnell (run-scoring groundout) and a Danville wild pitch accounted for a three-run second that gave Princeton a 6-2 lead. 

It was the third that proved the difference, though, as Princeton plated eight runs on its way to a nine-run cushion. 

A Danville throwing error on a Kevin Melendez ground ball made it a 7-5 game and Yunior Martinez increased the Devil Rays’ edge to three with his double to right. Wisley drove in his second run of the game on a fly ball to left. Schnell drove in a run on his single to center and Infante’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot, made it 14-5. 

Parker recorded his first professional home run in the sixth, sending a 1-0 pitch over the wall in center that pulled the Braves within seven at 14-7. 

Reyes picked up his second home run of the season in the third, drilling a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right for a two-run blast. 

Birdsong paced the D-Braves with three RBIs, while Brandon Parker and Reyes chipped in with two. 

Princeton took the second game of the set as well, squeaking out a 5-4 victory courtesy of a five-run fifth. 

Connor Blair drove in his first professional runs in the fifth, scoring Reyes and Cody Milligan on his double to center. 

Blair led the D-Braves with a pair of RBIs. 

Danville avoided its first three-game sweep of the season in the finale, punishing Princeton 15-6 on Saturday. 

The D-Braves scored five times in the third, three in the fifth and four in the ninth on their way to the victory. 

Beau Philip started the three-run third with a RBI double and Carter pushed the second run across with a sac fly to right. Ray Hernandez rounded out the frame with his second home run of the season, a three-run blast to right-center. 

Philip jumpstarted the fifth with his solo shot to right and Carter rounded it out with his second home run of the year, a two-run shot to right-center. 

Mitch Calandra (RBI single), Jose Palma (sacrifice fly) and Milligan (two-run single) drove in all four runs in the ninth. 

Carter and Hernandez each led Danville with three RBIs, while Philip and Milligan drove in a pair as well. 

Stallings (3-0) got the win on the hill, throwing five innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and striking out five. 

The D-Braves returned home on July 7 to open a 2-game set against Burlington. 

Burlington took the first game by a score of 3-1. 

Logan Porter (solo home run) and Maikel Garcia’s RBI double comprised a two-run second that proved the difference. 

David Hollie’s home run in the fourth gave Burlington a 3-1 lead heading into the middle innings. 

Parker pulled the D-Braves within two on his single to center in the seventh that scored Milligan. 

“It’s always kind of frustrating to lose when you hit the ball the way we were tonight,” said Hernandez. “But that’s baseball in the Appalachian League.” 

Milligan added, “We took some good cuts tonight, had some good approaches, but just couldn’t get anything to fall. That’s baseball, though, so we’ve just got to keep things the same and keep swinging the bats.” 

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