Monday night's opener of the annual 3-game series between cross-town baseball rivals St. Charles East and St. Charles North featured a little bit of everything -- and a lot of good things for the Saints.
Senior left-hander Nick Huskisson (2-1) limited the North Stars (11-10, 7-6) to just 1 base hit over 6 innings while racking up 8 strikeouts to help lead the Saints (13-7, 11-4) to a 7-0 Upstate Eight Conference River Division triumph at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.
Huskisson, who has been somewhat of a hard-luck pitcher this season with 3 no-decisions despite quality starts, was the beneficiary of a veritable offensive explosion from his teammates.
Led by Joe Hoscheit (3-for-4, RBI), Isaac Nimick (2-for-3, hit batsman), and Nicholas Erickson (1-for-2, RBI), the Saints finished the night with 11 base hits.
St. Charles East grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the first off North Stars' southpaw starter Ankur Shah (3-2). After back-to-back singles by Jack Dellostritto and Nimick, a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third before Erickson's sacrifice fly sent Dellostritto home with the game's first run. Hoscheit, who has 7 base hits in the last 3 games, then added an RBI line single to left.
"It was reassuring to get the bats going early," said Huskisson, who kept St. Charles North hitters off-balance with a sharp-breaking curveball.
"I was throwing that (curve) real well and setting it up with the fastball away," added Huskisson. "It worked and we stayed with it throughout the game with a good result."
In the third, Huskisson found himself in the middle of one of the wildest plays of the night. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Huskisson squibbed a slow roller between the mound the first base.
When Shah and first baseman Cory Wright both converged on the grounder, first base was left unoccupied and Huskisson legged out a run-producing infield single.
"I'll be the first one to tell you I didn't get any of that (ball)," said Huskisson. "I'm a slow guy so I was just worried about trucking down to first. I'm just glad it worked out for us."
Boy, did it ever work out for the Saints.
By the time the play ended, the Saints had cleared the bases on a ball that never reached the infield dirt, as Saints third-base coach Len Asquini kept waving runners home.
"I saw the opportunity to score a couple runs and put some pressure on them," said Asquini.
North Stars coach Todd Genke had a little different perspective from the third-base dugout.
"We lost all the hustle plays tonight which really bothers me," said Genke. "They hit a ball 30 feet in the infield and scored three runs. That just cannot happen, especially when the game is still a game at that point."
The Saints closed out the scoring with a pair of fifth-inning runs, thanks to Brian Sobieski's RBI triple and Ben Smith's run-scoring single -- and Huskisson did the rest with a scoreless seventh inning from reliever Troy Dykhuis.
"Nick was super on the mound," Asquini said of Huskisson. "I really thought he was in control with all of his pitches on the big stage."
Both teams ran themselves out of innings, as a Saints' runner was called out on an appeal for missing third base to end the fourth while an interference call was made against a North Stars' runner which resulted in a double play in the bottom half of the frame.
While recording just 1 infield single by Kurt Barbeau, the North Stars also committed 3 infield errors.
"We've got to make the plays in the infield that we're not making," said Genke. "We're not prepared and it's on me. They're very talented players and they know it but for whatever reason they have some doubts and they don't have any conviction. We've got to get that back."
The series resumes Wednesday afternoon at St. Charles East.