Prep baseball: Warriors' loss leads to win

Chad Drury/The Courier

Van Buren High School's Jonah Heckenberg pitches in relief during the first inning of Friday's SEI Superconference South Division game against Danville in Danville.

DANVILLE — The Van Buren High School baseball team needed to refocus.

Unfortunately, it took a jarring injury to one of the Warriors' best players to accomplish the task.

Ryan Wolf drove in three runs and Jonah Heckenberg stabilized the Warriors' pitching after a rough start by Tony Davison during a 13-2, five-inning SEI Superconference South Division victory Friday.

The win was nice, but thoughts were also on Brycen Starnes, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital after injuring a knee in a collision with Danville first baseman Dawson Vogelgesang on a pop-up barely in foul territory to end the second inning. Starnes, the Warriors' center fielder, is scheduled to have an MRI Monday.

"It's tough because Brycen is a great outfielder, but he's also a left-handed hitter with good speed," Van Buren coach Chad Scott said. "He usually puts together pretty good at-bats. It's tough to tell if it was avoidable, but it's just one of those things that happens in baseball."

Van Buren (3-1) drew 13 walks against the Bears, but the Warriors struggled with their own control early in the game.

Davison walked a pair of hitters in the opening inning, and allowed an RBI double to Griffen Molle. Vogelgesang was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give Danville a 2-0 lead. Davison left after just 2/3 innings, and reliever Jonah Heckenberg dominated over the final 4 1/3 innings, striking out eight and allowing just two hits in earning the win.

"Jonah was real good at stopping the bleeding for us," Scott said. "Tony was just missing and didn't have his best stuff tonight. Jonah didn't really give them anything free."

Van Buren began its comeback by taking advantage of the Bears' walks. The Warriors tied the game at two in the second by drawing five walks in the inning, and Danville starter Cody Welch issued back-to-back, two-out walks with the bases loaded.

The Warriors took a 4-2 lead after three innings, then busted open the game in the fourth on a two-run single by Wolf. Van Buren added six runs in the fifth, with Cory Bunnell collecting two hits in the inning. Both Davison and Mason McDonough had RBI doubles against Bears reliever Reid Yaley.

"I think a lot of the guys understand the zone better, and that comes from being a year older," Scott said. "Some of the at-bats tonight we probably wouldn't have had last year. They just went up there with a better plan tonight."

Van Buren visits New London Tuesday.

Chad Drury can be reached at, and on Twitter @ChadDrury