Many baseball observers like to say that hitting is contagious.
Pitching can be, too.
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Right-hander Cody Coll tossed a masterful 2-hit complete game to help lead Neuqua Valley (18-8, 15-5) to a 4-0 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over St. Charles East (16-8, 14-5) Monday afternoon in St. Charles.
Coll (3-3), who fired 1-hit ball over the first 6 innings and retired 16 consecutive batters at one point, received a bit of inspiration from his own teammates -- particularly the Wildcats' other pitchers.
"We all warm up together and work together," said Coll. "One guy has a good outing and the next guy wants to have a better outing. It helps us."
Coll certainly helped his own cause by keeping the Saints off the bases. He struck out 6, didn't issue a walk, and retired the Saints' leadoff hitter in all 7 innings.
"That's huge," said Coll. "Coach Fumo (John Fumagalli) always talks about getting that first guy out so when I'm warming up I'm always thinking about what pitches I'm going to throw to the first guy."
In the second inning, Coll issued a 1-out double to Brian Sobieski and was called for a balk before getting a much-needed strikeout and a grounder to second baseman Mike Riesner to end the threat.
In the seventh, the Saints got 2 runners aboard for the first time all afternoon, as Joe Hoscheit reached on an infield throwing error and Sobieski added a 2-out single.
Coll, who only needed to throw 84 pitches, ended the game with a strikeout.
"He's done that pretty much all year but we haven't always defended behind him," Wildcats coach Robin Renner said of Coll. "When you throw three pitches for strikes, I don't care who it is, you're going to be successful. He just knows how to pitch.
"And every time he pitches, it's against somebody else's top guy so it's always a dogfight."
That was the case again on Monday, as the Saints countered with previously unbeaten ace Matt Starai (6-1).
While the senior right-hander may not have had his best stuff, allowing 5 hits with 3 walks and 2 hit batsmen, he still kept his team in the game, trailing 2-0 after a 5-inning, 101-pitch outing.
"No matter what, you're going to have to score to help him out and we didn't do that today," said Saints coach Len Asquini. "We didn't put a lot of pressure on their defense."
Neuqua, which stranded 10 runners, grabbed a 1-0 first-inning lead when Dylan Goss delivered an RBI single after Jeff Evak and Riesner led off with back-to-back walks.
Riesner led off the third with a triple down the right-field line before scoring on Alex Wolanski's RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Wildcats added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth -- the last coming home on Goss' sacrifice fly.
"We're getting better with competing in the batter's box," said Renner. "That's what we're supposed to do at this time of the year."
Meanwhile, Asquini was less than enamored with most of his team's at-bats.
"He (Coll) threw a very good game," said Asquini. "He was pitching to us -- he wasn't just throwing -- and we didn't approach that very well.
"I've got to call our guys out because I don't think our approaches at the plate were anywhere near where they needed to be. We had a wonderful challenge here today and our guys didn't go out and try to get it."
The Saints host Streamwood today.
"Maybe this is exactly what we needed at this time," said Asquini, whose team is now tied with UEC River foe Batavia in the loss column. "We're trying to win a conference championship and we've got to get ready for playoff baseball. This (game) didn't show that we're ready for that yet."