SHABBONA – Dillon Martenson and the Indian Creek baseball team dared to scoff at the idea of one of the game’s oldest superstitions.
Right before a recent Little Ten Conference showdown with Newark, teammates chided Martenson, daring him to take the mound and throw a no-hitter.
After a leadoff walk and a pair of linedrive outs, holding the Norsemen hitless didn’t crossed Martenson’s mind.
That changed in the fourth inning when his teammates again broke baseball protocol and told him that a no-hitter was in the works.
“During a no-hitter, I’ve always seen players get ignored and have no one talk to them,” said Martenson, who would earn his first win of the season, 6-0, in the no-hitter, the first time he held an opponent hitless since sixth-grade summer ball in Somonauk.
“My teammates asked if I was worried that I would blow it. They joked around the whole time and kept me loose. I liked it because I can’t just sit there in silence; there’d be too many thoughts going through my head, and I would be worried about making a mistake.”
Perhaps it’s fitting the Timberwolves broke tradition because many complex thoughts often are on Martenson’s mind.
They will be there today when the T’Wolves (13-12) take on Paw Paw in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
As a freshman and sophomore, Martenson (2-3, 4.00 ERA) used his athleticism only in an attempt to throw the baseball past hitters. His strategy was to take the mound and throw to the catcher’s glove.
The results were humbling.
“I thought I was a stud as a freshman because I was on the varsity,” Martenson. “But as a sophomore pitcher, I was getting shelled.”
Gradually, the advice being offered by Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz started to make sense for Martenson. Piekarz, who pitched at Northern Illinois, encouraged Martenson to embrace pitching with a strategy.
Pitchers have to operate like a surgeon with a scalpel, making precise incisions into the strike zone.
Stay consistent, and hitters will make a pitcher pay the price. But with a fastball, curveball and slider, Martenson can keep hitters guessing as he carves up the strike zone.
“Dillon has really embraced the mental aspect of pitching,” said Piekarz who noted that his prep, collegiate and professional career didn’t include a no-hitter. “He throws all his pitches for strikes and has learned how to set hitters up. He’s worked with me more than anyone on pitching philosophy and has embraced it to the point that he helps me relay information to the rest of the pitching staff.”
Because he’s been the No. 1 starter for Indian Creek, he regularly would face the opposition’s best pitcher. Three quarters of the season was over before he picked up his first win in dramatic fashion with the no-hitter.
Just like Indian Creek, a team that was supposedly in rebuilding mode but went on to finish third in the Little Ten Conference, Martenson has made a dramatic improvement in a short time.
“No one had any idea at the start of the year that we would be this far along in terms of the success we’ve had on the field,” Piekarz said. “It’s a credit to the players and to how hard they’ve worked.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time. We are no longer in a position where we feel like we need a miracle to win a game. We feel like all we need to do is pitch well, play good defense and have good at-bats, and we have the ability to stay with any team.”