ST. CHARLES – It’s not often that a baseball team faces the same starting pitcher in the first two games of a series.
That was the unusual situation Batavia found itself in Monday after rain washed away a pair of scheduled Upstate Eight Conference River Division games against St. Charles East last week.
The Bulldogs (13-3, 7-3 UEC River) didn’t have any better luck against East right-hander Matt Starai in a 1-0 loss Monday than they did in April 16’s 4-0 defeat.
Starai (5-0) shut out Batavia on two hits, just as he did in the series opener.
“We went with a similar game plan – attacked a lot on the hands,” Starai said. “It worked the last time, so we wanted to do something at least similar this time. We might have thrown a couple more breaking balls.”
Those breaking balls complemented a fastball that topped out at 91 mph on at least one radar gun and was consistently in the upper 80s.
Starai struck out five and walked two.
“We weren’t striking out, we just weren’t getting very good swings on things,” Batavia coach Matt Holm said. “It’s a broken record. It’s the same thing I said last time. He’s a very good pitcher. If he gets ahead in the count, he’s got all four pitches he can throw for strikes, so you’re in trouble.”
If the Bulldogs could take any solace in the loss, it was that they made Starai work a little harder this time, forcing him to throw more than 90 pitches.
“They were a little more patient at the plate,” Starai said. “It got us a little deeper into counts, but we were able to get the job done today anyway.”
Starai’s two wins against the Bulldogs put the Saints (10-5, 8-2) a game ahead of Batavia in the conference standings heading into the final game of the series Wednesday at Batavia, weather permitting.
Starai did not allow a hit this time until Aaron Hurd beat out a dribbler in the fifth inning.
The only solid hit the Bulldogs had was Luke Horton’s single to right leading off the seventh. Horton got as far as third base with two outs, but Starai struck out Hurd to end the game.
Starai’s outing spoiled an almost equally impressive pitching performance by Batavia junior Colby Green (1-1), who allowed only one unearned run in six innings.
Green still had to accept some blame for the run, since he hit Jack Dellostritto to give the Saints a base runner in the fifth and then made a pickoff attempt that was too hot for Horton to handle at first.
Dellostritto moved to third on a groundout and scored when shortstop Billy Zwick uncharacteristically booted Joe Hoscheit’s grounder up the middle.
Otherwise, Green handcuffed East with a curveball he threw consistently for strikes and a fastball that he kept low and on the outside corner of the plate, limiting them to four hits.
He walked one and struck out three.
“He was hitting his spots and causing us a little bit of trouble,” East coach Len Asquini said. “He’s a tough little pitcher. We’ll have our hands full with him next year, too.”
Holm, meanwhile, is hoping he’s seen the last of Starai, a senior.
“We’ve got to run home and get the tarp on so we don’t see him again next week,” Holm said, not entirely in jest. “If we don’t see them Wednesday, we’ll probably see him next week or the week after.”