MAHOMET — For all of the reasons Danville High School could have lost its sectional baseball opener on Wednesday, there were an equal number why the team was victorious.
The obvious one was Chuckie Robinson.
The Vikings' junior catcher reached base all five times he batted. He clubbed a two-run, 340-foot home run in the seventh to start a Danville rally that created extra innings, and then he scored the decisive run in the ninth inning of the 5-4 triumph against Normal West's 30-win team.
"We have a lot of fight," said Robinson, whose team fell behind 3-0 after one inning. "We don't give up. It feels amazing to win."
Amazing is an accurate description for the outcome.
— The Vikings were without their top senior pitcher, Cash Kiser. He left the team on Wednesday morning to be part of a previously-planned cultural exchange trip to Taiwan for which he had long ago raised money;
— When the seventh inning started, Danville had managed just two runs in 13 innings against the Wildcats this season;
— Normal West (30-8) had its ace on the mound. Left-hander Alex Jefferson, who pitched the final four innings in relief, had a 9-0 season record;
— All four of the game's errors were committed by Vikings.
The victory, which moves Danville to the final 16 remaining teams in Class 3A, was great, Gritton said. Even better was the manner in which it was achieved.
"The key was how we handled adversity," Gritton said. "There were so many little things. I'm so proud of how we came back."
The Vikings (21-14) started their seventh-inning comeback with leadoff batter Nik Shepherd drawing a walk.
"He was down 0-2 in the count," Gritton said, "and came back to coax a walk. That was one of the little things."
Robinson followed with his fourth home run, a mammoth clout that Gritton said, "gave our dugout a spark."
The next hitter, cleanup batter Tanner McQuown, followed up on his two-home run performance in the regional finals on Saturday by lofting an opposite-field home run to right. The ball hit the top of the railing and bounced over.
The homer, also his fourth, created a 4-4 tie.
"It was a fly ball," Normal West coach Chris Hawkins said, "that bounced over. A foot shorter and it might just have been a single. If you coach long enough, you'll have these heartbreaks."
In the top of the ninth, Robinson beat out an infield single to third base. In what was called as a hit-and-run, he stole second when batter Michael Vascura missed the ball.
With two outs, Robinson raced home on Reece Imler's two-strike single into center field.
"We had guys who made errors pick themselves up," Gritton said. "Reece went from goat to hero."
In the sixth inning, Imler drew a four-pitch walk and, when Austin West was hit by a pitch for the second time, the Vikings had two runners on base with nobody out.
Wildcat catcher Adam McGinnis picked Reece off base and the promising inning ended with Danville leaving the bases loaded.
Vikings reliever Chase Thurston — who was summoned after four of the first six batters Vascura faced collected hits — pitched 8 2/3 innings for the win.
He had to survive a shaky bottom of the ninth.
Jefferson led off with a hit and was sacrificed to second. Vascura then committed a throwing error after fielding a ground ball. The Wildcats had runners at first and third with one out.
Robinson gunned out the cleanup batter on a tap in front of the plate before the final batter, Tanner Reid, hit a ball to Vascura. His throw to first baseman McQuown was on target and the Vikings were celebrating what Gritton called, "my biggest win."
Robinson (3 for 3) was the only Viking with more than one hit. Thurston (6-3) scattered five hits and allowed one run in his stint.
Gritton didn't hesitate in the first inning to move his shortstop to the mound.
"It makes us move people on defense," he said, "but we needed him today. Michael has been awful good, but we went to Chase right away."
Vascura (7-2) will likely get the ball for Saturday's 1 p.m. title game. Gritton won't wonder what might happen if Kiser was available.
"I've adopted a motto from Coach (B.J.) Luke," he said. "We move on to the next guy. Cash is a senior leader, but he's not here and we've got to move on."
McQuown has been the unsung hero. Batting cleanup in his first year of high school ball, he has a team-high 27 runs batted in.
"He had back surgery as a freshman and that kept him out two years," Gritton said. "Then he didn't play as a junior."
He returned at the most opportune time to play for a coach he'd played for at North Ridge Middle School.
"We had to find a guy to hit behind Chuckie in the lineup," Gritton said. "I told him I knew he could help us. I'm so happy with how he has played."
Gritton praised Robinson for his defensive impact. Normal West didn't try to steal a base against the rifle-armed right-hander.
"They have a great deal of team speed and are aggressive on the bases," Gritton said, "but Chuckie eliminated that."
On Saturday, the Vikings will seek the school's first sectional title in baseball since 1983. Danville plays the winner of today's Morton/Sacred Heart-Griffin game for a berth in the Elite Eight.
"This team has a never-say-die attitude," Gritton said. "What we lack in talent, we make up for in competitiveness. That has been our trademark."