Dundee-Crown shocks Huntley, wins regional title

DeKALB -Vince Damato's fearless approach was unconventional.

Faced with one of the area's most explosive lineups, Dundee-Crown's junior pitcher didn't shrink away from the strikezone -- he attacked.

Damato exuded confidence, put the burden on batters to not make mistakes and led his second-seeded Chargers to a shutout victory over top-seeded Huntley, 3-0, to win the Class 4A DeKalb Regional Championship on Saturday.

D-C will face Prairie Ridge at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Huntley sectional semifinals.

"Make them hit the ball and make them work to get on base," Damato said of his gameplan for Huntley hitters. "You can't just give them walks, and you can't work around them. You have to make them hit the ball."

The Red Raiders (25-7 overall) downed D-C twice during the regular season by a combined score of 20-5.

The regional title is a first for the Chargers (10-18) since 2011, when they defeated Huntley for the crown.

"We're coming together at the right time ... I think we were ready for them this time," D-C coach Jon Anderson said. "They put their shoes on just like we put our shoes on."

Damato's complete-game shutout included just one walk and one strikeout. He allowed only two hits, thanks in part to an efficient defense that handled 12 infield groundballs, caught six flyouts and remained unfazed by three infield errors.

"We weren't able to get anything going at the plate," Huntley junior Mark Skonieczny said. "He kept us on our front foot, and good for him."

D-C sent a message early that Huntley would pay for its mistakes when senior Luis Garcia reached first base on a throwing error. He advanced on another throwing error, and senior Trent Muscat drove him home to give D-C a momentous 1-0 lead in the second inning.

"I think it was huge," Anderson said of the early lead. "But no lead is safe with their hitters. What they have 1-2-3 -- all Division-I players -- no lead is safe."

In the fourth inning, Damato brought in senior Ryan Suwanski, who had reached on his second hit of the game, and in the fifth inning junior Zach Girard drove in junior Fabian Gutierrez on a blooper to short center field for the final run support of the game.

"We're all shocked," Skonieczny said. "We expected to come out here and play tough today, and we just couldn't get anything going offensively. We played hard, we fought hard, and things just didn't go our way today."

Huntley pitcher Eric Luecht impressed despite no run support. In a complete game, he fanned seven batters, walked none and was charged with two runs on five hits.

Damato said he leaned on his cutter and changeup more as the game went on, and as the last out was called, his teammates mobbed him on the mound.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It's everything we worked for in the offseason. It just feels great to finally get through it."

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