The Evanston Wildkits returned home from Boca Raton, Fla., late last week after finishing with a record of 2-2 in the National Grand Slam Tournament. This was the first year any Evanston baseball team had left the state of Illinois to compete in a tournament.
“This was an incredible week and experience for us,” said ETHS senior pitcher and shortstop Zach Morton. “Playing against great competition in Florida and competing in an elite tournament like that one is an unforgettable experience for all of the players. The trip also brought us a lot closer together as a team and a unit.”
Evanston was pitted against Forest Hill High School for their first game in the tournament; the Kits won by an impressive 12-0 slaughter-rule decision. Senior pitchers Morton and Chris Metz combined for a two-hit shutout in the victory, and E-Town thrived at the plate as well. Evanston went on top early by putting up three runs in the home-half of the first, thanks in part to a leadoff double by senior Nate Hobbs and a two-run homer from Morton.
The Kits then moved on to put up four runs in the second inning and five in the third inning to cruise for the 12-0 win.
“We came out really excited to play that first game,” said senior first baseman Nick Boyer, who had two singles in the victory. “We came out with an energy that could not be matched, and that is why I think we played so well that first game.”
In the second game Evanston faced West Boca Raton High School, which had a record of 48-9 last season. The Kits battled the Bulls hard and the game was tied 3-3 heading into the final frame, thanks to a two-run shot from senior Colin Sallee. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Bulls shortstop hit a game-winning walk-off home run to defeat the Kits 4-3. “That was a really tough loss to swallow,” said senior outfielder John Wagner. “We played them tough but we just could not pull it out. They were a really good team, and they came up big in the final inning and we didn’t.”
Even though the team did not earn a win, the energy level and intensity of the game was a valuable experience. “I have never played in a game with that much intensity,” added Wagner. “Even though we didn’t win, it was a great learning experience for us … I will never forget that game.”
Evanston lost another close game the next day, as they were shut out in a tough 2-0 loss to the American Heritage Delray High School Stallions. But the Kits rebounded from the two losses with a victory in their final game of the tournament over the Clearwater High School Tornadoes. Senior Ashok Freitas led the way in the high-scoring slugfest by driving in three runs as the Kits held on to defeat the Tornadoes by a score of 12-9.
Evanston’s trip to Florida was a memorable event that should help the team succeed throughout the rest of the regular season. “By playing the talented teams that we played in Florida, we have a lot of confidence coming back and playing games in Illinois. We are not scared of any teams that we face now,” said Boyer. The Kits won convincingly in their first game back from the Sunshine State by defeating Mundelein High School 17-4. The Wildkits currently have a record of 6-0 and have not lost under new head coach Frank Consiglio.
The Kits put their undefeated record on the line this week as they played games on Monday and Tuesday and match up with Notre Dame this afternoon at ETHS, where first pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. Evanston is also in action tomorrow on the road against division foe Waukegan, where the game will begin at 4:45 p.m.