John Augello did not tiptoe out of obscurity. He blasted away from it, leaving it in the same dust as those befuddled and bedeviled MacArthur hitters, who for seven innings could merely watch as he earned his first varsity win.
The Carey senior pitched a two-hitter - four more innings than he'd pitched in his varsity career - in shutting down the host Generals, 9-1, Tuesday in Conference AA-I.
The genial righthander, more known for his jokes than his fastball, quickly ascended from comic relief to leading man. He allowed an infield hit to lead off the game but retired the next three batters on two ground balls and a strikeout on the strength of his knee-buckling curve. He struck out six, including Michael Scro with the bases loaded and two outs in the third while nursing a 2-1 lead.
"The kids were really pulling for him," Carey coach Marc Hedquist said. "He's the clown of the bunch."
The encouragement showed itself in the form of flawless defense - something that had been missing with the Seahawks. MacArthur (6-2), meanwhile, struggled mightily with fundamentals, committing three errors while its pitchers walked eight and hit two batters.
Carey (4-4) pounced on starter Sal Sanquini's second time around the lineup. The Seahawks scored twice in the third, ignited by Tom Rydzewski's headfirst dive into home plate on a fielder's choice.
"That ball was hit and I was nervous," Rydzewski said. "I saw them going back [to first] and I just went for it. I saw the hole in the plate."
Rydzewski struck again in the fourth with a run-scoring infield single. Mike Marino and Alphonse Gentile followed with RBI singles in the five-run inning. Although Carey comes from its spot in AA-II last season, the Seahawks have given MacArthur trouble in the past, knocking the No. 1-seeded Generals out of the playoffs last year.
This time around, MacArthur showcased a stacked lineup, thanks to hard-hitting seniors Scro, Nick McQuail and Frankie Vanderka. The three, though, went 1-for-7 against Augello.
Augello said he was "hoping for the best" in his second varsity start. Ace John Daddino is recovering from shoulder surgery, and pitcher Kyle Zahradka might be out until the postseason, Hedquist said. The hole in the rotation might just be a good home for Augello.
"I haven't gotten much playing time in two years," Augello said. The next start is a question mark, "but I'm just going to ice my arm up and prepare."
One thing is certain: If he keeps this up, the kid who cut his teeth making other people smile won't be making anyone laugh.