There's one big reason why St. Charles East remains in the thick of the battle for an Upstate Eight Conference River Division baseball title this season -- pitching.
For the 13th time in 16 conference contests, the Saints (14-7, 12-4) held an opponent to 2 runs or fewer, as senior pitcher Troy Dykhuis (4-1) fired a 5-hit complete game during St. Charles East's 5-1 triumph over visiting St. Charles North (11-11, 7-7) Wednesday afternoon.
Dykhuis, who came on in relief to pitch a scoreless seventh during the Saints' 5-0 win over the North Stars on Monday night at Fifth Third Ballpark, carried a shutout into the top of the seventh Wednesday. Nick Drawant's run-producing sacrifice fly snapped St. Charles North's 13 2/3-inning scoreless streak against its cross-town rival.
"It's kind of cool to close them out two games in a row," said Dykhuis. "We've got a great staff over here. Everybody comes in and pitches a great game every time and keeps us in a great spot to win. We definitely feed off each other."
Dykhuis, who hit 2 batters, walked 1 and struck out 6 in a solid 99-pitch outing.
"All of his pitches were there," Saints coach Len Asquini said of Dykhuis. "You just can't relax as a hitter because everything is close. He was ahead in the count on most of the hitters."
The Saints' top 3 pitchers -- Matt Starai, Nick Huskisson, and Dykhuis -- own a combined record of 12-2.
"Troy has been wonderful for us," said Asquini. "We're real happy with his progress."
The Saints scored a pair of first-inning runs off of North Stars sophomore southpaw Cory Wright (2-2). Jack Dellostritto led off with a walk, stole second and scored on Nicholas Erickson's RBI single. After Joe Hoscheit reached on an infield error, Brian Sobieski's sacrifice fly sent Erickson across to make it 2-0.
In the fourth, the Saints padded their lead with a pair of unearned runs as the North Stars' defense continued to struggle.
Huskisson led off with a double and advanced to third on a throwing error of a grounder hit off the bat of Anthony Sciarrino.
With runners at second and third and 1 out, Asquini decided the time was right for a suicide squeeze bunt.
"If you just get it down, it's nearly impossible to defend," said Asquini.
With Huskisson barreling down the third-base line, junior Adam Rojas executed the play to perfection by laying down the first-pitch bunt toward third, and the Saints had a 3-0 lead.
"I got kind of excited because it's a high-intensity play," said Rojas. "I saw him (Asquini) put it on and I was ready to put it down and get the job done."
Dellostritto then delivered a 2-out RBI single to up the Saints' lead to 4-0.
In the sixth, the Saints literally hustled their way to their final run. Brannon Barry led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch and came all the way across when the North Stars failed cover home after Sciarrino's sacrifice bunt.
"We're getting that complete game that we're asking from them," said Asquini, whose team clinched its third consecutive UEC River series victory. "We're even with Batavia right now on the River side so we're looking to keep winning and see where it ends up."
It was another frustrating day for the North Stars, who committed 5 errors and were 0-for-6 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
"We're losing the 1-on-1 battle at the plate," said North Stars coach Todd Genke. "We've just got to scratch and claw and get some runs across. We're not doing it. When we have our chances, we just can't get that clutch 2-out hit."
Genke was pleased with Wright's mound presence despite shaky defense in back of him.
"For a sophomore, he really competes," said Genke. "His poise was phenomenal. It's a lonely place to be when guys aren't making plays behind you.
"We're going to come out of this a better team but right now we're in a funk."