West Aurora senior pitcher Ottavio Dattolo wasn't sure what was going to happen when he took the mound Tuesday afternoon against St. Charles East.
And for good reason, considering the Blackhawks hadn't stepped foot on a baseball diamond yet this season due to the frigid outdoor conditions across suburban Chicago the past few weeks.
The right-hander tossed 6 scoreless innings before giving way to senior closer Chris Hawks, who slammed the door shut on the Saints (0-1) during the Blackhawks' 1-0 nonconference victory in St. Charles.
It appeared that Dattolo, who walked 1 and struck out 2 during an efficient 66-pitch performance, was going to get a no-decision until junior teammate Jacob Andalcio knocked in the game's only run with a 2-out single to right-center in the bottom of the sixth.
"We didn't really swing the bats too well," said Blackhawks coach John Reeves, "but we'll take Jacob's hit there in the sixth. It was clutch. He played with us last summer and it's kind of his thing. He's a gamer."
Dattolo survived a shaky first inning, which included a bizarre inning-ending double play on a ball that Saints designated hitter Brian Sobieski hit off the top of the fence in left-center.
Joe Hoscheit led off the game with a walk before Nick Erickson's infield single put runners on first and second with 1 out.
Sobieski then hit a towering fly ball that kept carrying before caroming off the top of the fence. While Blackhawks center fielder D.J. Varney caught the ball on the bounce and threw the ball back to the infield, the Saints' runners remained at their bases.
What should have been a base hit to at least load the bases turned into a rally killing double play when the Blackhawks stepped on third and second base for force outs.
"We all kind of froze -- coaches, players, and umpires -- and that was it," said Saints coach Len Asquini.
"I guess you could say we kind of caught a break there with nobody really knowing what was going on there," admitted Reeves. "I knew we had an out at third with the lead runner but then I couldn't tell who was where. That worked out really well for us."
It also helped calm Dattolo, who retired 7 of the final 8 batters he faced before giving the ball to Hawks.
"I just needed to settle down," said Dattolo. "I was kind of nervous coming into the game. I hadn't thrown outside yet. It was crazy walking onto the field not knowing what to expect. I settled into a groove, found my arm slot and just went to work."
"He's done a good job leading up to the start of practice and getting ready for the start of the season," Reeves said of Dattolo. "You've got to like a guy who wants the ball. He wanted the seventh inning but we wanted to give it to somebody else.
"Plus, we've got a lot of confidence in the guy (Hawks) we brought in at the end," added Reeves.
Senior southpaw Nick Huskisson (0-1) suffered the tough-luck defeat despite throwing 6 innings of 3-hit baseball. Huskisson walked 2, hit a batter, and fanned 5.
"Nick was not as sharp as he has been or can be but he certainly kept us in the ballgame and made some big pitches," said Asquini. "We hit the ball hard at times but right at some people, and I don't think we had anybody reach third base the whole game."
Senior third baseman Isaac Nimick had 2 of the Saints' 5 base hits.
"I kind of expected that," Asquini said of his team's cold bats. "But I didn't expect us to get shut out. We just didn't come through with timely hits."