Danville ready to prove worth in American Legion tournament

Danville ready to prove worth in American Legion tournament

DANVILLE — It's time to move on.

The controversy surrounding American Legion baseball's Illinois state tournament is in the rearview mirror, according to Danville Post 210 Gold coach Allan Shepherd.

Now, Shepherd wants his club to prepare for the Great Lakes Regional and a shot at the Legion national championship.

"We're going into it mostly healthy," Shepherd said of the eight-team regional tournament, which opens today at Mercy Field in Toledo, Ohio. "It's like our second state. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win."

Danville (33-6) could take on Mt. Prospect Post 525 (16-6) in what would be an all-Illinois second-round bout Thursday if both teams win their opening games. That would be especially interesting, given what transpired at the state tournament.

Mt. Prospect went 3-0 at the state tournament last week, guaranteeing its spot in the Great Lakes Regional. That included a triumph over Danville, which later knocked off Alton Post 126 in a 10-inning thriller to give itself a shot at the state crown.

Danville would have needed two consecutive wins against Mt. Prospect to make this happen, but Post 210 didn't even get a shot.

State chairman Don Wallis, at the behest of the Mt. Prospect staff, awarded that program the first-place trophy after its coaches said some athletes needed to get home for college orientations the next day.

Inclement weather plagued the four-day state tournament, and there was a possibility Danville and Mt. Prospect would have to contest a winner-take-all game on Aug. 1. But Shepherd didn't feel that was a feasible excuse for Mt. Prospect to exit prematurely.

"I didn't like it," Shepherd said. "We didn't get the opportunity to play for the state title. It's the first time (that's happened) in Legion state history, and that's a pretty extensive history. Mr. Wallis gets to live with that."

Danville's consolation prize was Illinois' No. 2 slot in the Great Lakes Regional. And for the second time in two playoff events, Danville must open against the host unit when Shepherd's athletes take on Napoleon Post 300 at approximately 7:30 p.m tonight.

"We've been preparing for these situations since I took the program over," Shepherd said. "We're trying to prove ... Vermilion County can compete on the national level."

Shepherd said he'd look forward to another shot at Mt. Prospect in the second round, but also noted "I don't have any rivals" in this tournament.

For Shepherd's money, Midland Berryhill Post 165 out of Michigan is the odds-on favorite to advance to the Legion World Series later this month because the squad is "usually loaded with Division I guys."

Don't take that to mean Danville's players won't bother to unpack their bags in Ohio.

Shepherd feels Post 210 — whose roster includes current and former prep stars from Danville, Oakwood, Salt Fork, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Westville, Hoopeston Area and Schlarman — has the ability to make a run to Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C., for the Legion World Series.

"It took us 50 years to get a state title — I don't want it to take another 50 to get to the World Series," Shepherd said. "This program is built strictly to give these kids an opportunity. This is icing on the cake for all their hard work."

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