The Hannibal Hoots rode a stellar start and manufactured offense Wednesday to earn a 4-0 shutout over Danville to begin their inaugural season.
Brady West had the best view in the house Wednesday night.
The catcher was on the receiving end of six shutout innings from starting pitcher Dylan Dodd, who carried the Hannibal Hoots to a 4-0 win in their inaugural Prospect League game.
Dodd struck out eight Danville batters and walked none while throwing 58 of his 80 pitches for strikes at Clemens Field.
“His stuff tonight was unbelievable,” West assessed of his new teammate. “He was working both sides of the zone really well and had good control over the fastball. He worked his slider in there well along with his change-up.”
Dodd, a Danville native, found out he was going to start just 24 hours before the season opener.
The Kankakee Community College standout made the most of the opportunity, forcing the Dans hitters to beat him rather than allowing any free base runners.
“Coming to the ballpark, it starts with getting in a nice routine, and I felt I was able to do that today,” Dodd said. “Getting ahead of batters was really key. I just try not to walk anybody because that never leads to good things.
“I want to compete in the zone, and if they hit me, they hit me.”
On Wednesday, the Dans could not.
Danville totaled just six hits on the night as three Hoots pitchers controlled the contest to the tune of 14 punchouts.
West helped his starter get out of trouble in the top of the third inning. The Indiana Wesleyan University backstop gunned down a would-be base stealer at third base to strand a pair of Danville runners.
“It was a slider out, so it took me away from the plate, but I got my feet under me and rifled it down there in time,” West said of the momentum-snatching play.
Joe Roscetti, Hannibal's No. 9 hitter, led off the bottom of the third with a single to left. The hit was the first of the season for the Hoots, who played in front of a paid home crowd of 704.
Tommy Kraus followed with a single to keep the Hannibal offense in business.
Aaron Goecks later drew a bases-loaded walk to push across the Hoots' first run before West hit into a double play that brought home another tally.
“Our ability to control the zone and get good counts and not chase pitches to be the guy in that moment, our hitters did a good job of that tonight,” West said.
Dodd pitched his second 1-2-3 inning of the night in the fourth.
He proceeded to pick off a Danville runner in the fifth with help from shortstop Ethan Owens to keep the visitors off the board.
The southpaw fired a flawless sixth but was then removed due to pitch count regulations.
“For him to go through six innings in 80 pitches, that was a great performance by him,” Hoots manager Clayton Hicks said of his starter. “He should be proud of himself. He was really good tonight.”
Jordan Humphries singled to put Hannibal runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, chasing Danville starter Blake Malatestinic.
West raced home from second base moments later as the Dans' pickoff attempt air-mailed to right field.
Hannibal added its final tally in the sixth inning.
Tye Thixton led off with a deep triple, and Roscetti drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.
“We're just going to come out here and scrap and get runs how we can,” Thixton said. “We have a bunch of guys who like to play for each other. We've got a totally selfless group that just wants to get each other in.”
After being held hitless through the first two innings, Hannibal finished with a total of nine hits in the win.
Every member of the Hoots lineup reached base at least once.
“It was a great team win,” Hicks said of the efficient opener, which took 2 hours, 24 minutes. “It was nice to see some swings get better later in the game. We anticipated the first time through the lineup may be tough, but the guys came out in good fashion after that.”
Jonny Steiner pitched two scoreless innings in relief for Hannibal while striking out five.
Tyler Lunger needed just six pitches to secure the Hoots victory with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Hannibal plays at Springfield on Thursday before returning home to face Quincy on Friday night.