ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East senior Matt Starai might look like he’s come out of nowhere to baseball teams in the area.
Not so, says Saints coach Len Asquini. Asquini said Starai’s sizzling start is more about opportunity than any drastic improvement since last season, when he was a bit-player on East’s pitching staff.
Starai notched a six-inning shutout Monday as the Saints finished off Upstate Eight Conference crossover opponent Waubonsie Valley, 10-0, with a five-run sixth inning.
Starai has three of the five wins for the Saints (5-4, 3-1 UEC River) on the young season.
“We knew he had good stuff,” Asquini said. “Last year, he just didn’t get enough innings. There weren’t enough innings in the day to get him some time. … We knew he had good enough stuff last year to contribute. We’re real excited for him this year that it’s really working out well for him right now. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Starai, who improved to 3-0 with the win, was slowed early last season by a sprained wrist, and wound up slotting into the bullpen on a deep East pitching staff.
East has a legitimate ace in southpaw Nick Huskisson but Starai is showing there isn’t much of a drop-off when he takes the mound.
“I feel like we’re a good 1-2,” Starai said. “We’re both really good. Neither one of us is heads-and-tails over the other. Some days he’s better, some days I’m better, but I feel like we work good together. We want the best for each other.”
Starai pops the mitt in the mid-80s, and also is able to spot a quality curveball and cutter. He fanned nine Warriors in his six innings and allowed only three hits, all singles.
“I think his pitch totals those last three innings – 11, nine seven, something like that – I mean, that’s outstanding,” Asquini said.
While Asquini contends Starai had the skill set to be a key piece of East’s pitching staff last year, Starai said a serious offseason commitment accounts for much of his current success.
“I worked a lot every day – mechanics, long toss, locating,” Starai said. “I had pretty good breaking balls before this but I struggled to locate them, so I really worked on locating them and building arm strength.”
Monday’s game was scoreless until the Saints produced a three-run, third inning off Waubonsie lefty Troy Fumagalli.
The Saints had four straight hits to start the inning, including consecutive doubles by No. 9 hitter Adam Rojas and leadoff hitter Jack Dellostritto.
East closed the game with a five-run sixth, culminating with a game-ending, two-run single by Huskisson.
Waubonsie (3-5, 2-2 UEC Valley) squandered scoring chances in the first two innings before going meekly in the late stages.
“We’re two different teams,” Warriors coach Dan Fezzuoglio said. “And today, we were not the team that we want to be.”
The Saints also have shown the penchant to play at drastically varying levels, though Rojas thinks East has been on an upward trajectory in recent games.
“The first couple games, we couldn’t finish the game,” Rojas said. “In the seventh inning, we just kind of broke down, weren’t really focused. But now we’re starting to focus more throughout the game. We’re starting to make plays in the seventh inning, and this game, we got to finish early, which is good.”
Designated hitter Brian Sobieski went 2 for 3 with two RBIs for East while speedy right fielder Brannon Barry (2 for 2, double, walk) and left fielder Joe Hoscheit (three walks) also helped stir the Saints’ offense.