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After an impressive season last year that ended in a tough regional final loss to Maine South, ETHS’s baseball team will try and repeat their regular season success but with a much younger look. Coach Frank Consiglio, who took the helm last year, is trying to rebuild after losing many seniors, including Zach Morton, John Wagner, Colin Sallee and David Baskin, who helped bring the Wildkits to a solid 22-10 record in 2008.
This year will bring a fresh change in the program as Coach Consiglio will look to new senior leadership, along with some new talent in the lower classes. “We lost eight regular fielders and the top three guys in our pitching rotation,” Coach Consiglio said. “The good thing is that this is not a normal growing process for our kids. Now that we have two teams in the summer and play 15-20 games in the fall, they’re getting a lot of extra playing time because the program is so extensive.”
Another new change fans will see this year will be the brand new field, refurbished after a major construction process started last summer. The thing that probably stands out the most in the new field is the extension of the outfield walls, or as Evanston fans will now call them, the “Blue Monster.”
The walls are located in left and right field and extend up to 25 feet high and pose a huge problem for all sluggers on the field. The new field also features brand new brick laden benches, bigger stands that provide more room seating for the fans, a permanent public address system and a press box.
Before the Kits could try out their new stadium, they had to get their first game under their belts at Von Steuben where Coach Consiglio found his young team stepping up at just the right time. In the first inning, junior infielder David Stillerman got Evanston on the board with an RBI single, and then scored after senior third-baseman Morgan Fitzpatrick drove in two, putting Evanston up 3-1 in the first inning. Von Steuben tied the game in the second, but the Kits took the lead for good after Fitzpatrick drove in his third run in the third inning. Evanston tacked on another run in the sixth inning when senior outfielder Richie Foreman hit an RBI infield single to give Evanston a 5-3 win in its season opener.
Senior starting pitcher Carlos Ramirez was taken out of the game after giving up three runs in two innings, but he was backed up in a big way by junior reliever Greg Otte.
Otte struck out seven batters in four innings, while giving up only one hit and no runs. Senior closer David Horwitz came to the mound in the seventh inning and shut the door to preserve the save.
After a refreshing start to their season, Evanston could not wait to play at home against last year’s class 4A runner-up, Oak Park River-Forest. Superintendant Eric Witherspoon and CFO Bill Stafford were there for the grand opening, and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes threw out the first pitch.
After a slow start and great pitching on both sides, Oak Park scored first in the third inning when Huskies outfielder Armand Gordon hit an RBI triple. ETHS starter Greg Otte settled down after that, pitching a total of six innings, giving up that one run and not walking a single batter.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildkits’ Fitzpatrick tripled deep to right field, driving in Stillerman to tie the game. Fitzpatrick then scored on a wild pitch to put Evanston up 2-1 going into the sixth. Oak Park then tied the game on a misplayed fly ball and forced the game into extra innings. The Huskies put the game away when they scored three runs in the top of the eighth off Kits’ reliever Horwitz, including a two-run home run off the bat of Gordon, who finished with a total of three RBIs.
Evanston is now 1-1 and will play two more home games against Stevenson and Hersey. Then they will go on to play in a prestigious tournament over spring break in Florida, where they will be the only team in Illinois to be invited. Coach Consiglio knows the beginning of the season will bring some frustration, but says he believes his team will eventually overcome: “We’ll struggle early. We’ll grow and we’ll learn, and will hope to be playing our best baseball by the end of May. They’ve got some ability – all they need is experience.”