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The Evanston Township High School baseball team finished the regular season with an overall record of 16-19 and high hopes heading into the postseason.
“Heading into the playoffs, we wanted a regional championship,” said senior pitcher Jordan Crawford. “We knew it would be hard because Oak Park-River Forest was probably the one team we did not want to be in a regional with. That did not stop us from setting our eyes on the prize, though; we knew we could handle [first-round opponent] Niles North, and if we could [win] that [game] then OPRF would be easier on us.”
On May 24 in the Class 4A OPRF Regional semifinal, the Wildkits beat Niles North 9-2. In that game, senior pitcher Josh Isenstein picked up the win, pitching four innings, allowing one run off three hits and striking out seven. Junior infielder Brandon Vamarasi went two for four with two runs batted in to lead the Kits at the plate. Vamarasi hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and the Kits scored five runs to take a 5-0 lead. They held on from there to earn a trip to the regional title game against Oak Park.
“I thought we played loose and together as a team,” said Isenstein. “We had beaten them twice already and did not want a repeat of last years’ playoffs when we lost to Maine South after beating them twice in the regular season. Offensively, we hit the ball well and we were solid defensively, which is crucial in the playoffs.”
He added, “Personally, it was great to be able to pitch well for four innings and give my team a chance to win in the playoffs. I hardly saw the field as a junior and it meant a lot to be a contributing pitcher this year and to be able to win a game in the playoffs.”
On May 26 against Oak Park, the Kits were unable to maintain the momentum gained from the Niles North game. They lost to the Huskies 2-1 in the regional title game, ending the season on a sour note.
“The OPRF game was a tough one,” said Crawford, who took the loss in his final game as a Kit. “I thought we had a real shot to win it the entire game. Even down 2-0 in the fifth or so, I thought we could take it. Unfortunately we did not come back and had to see our season end. Yet a game like this shows the juniors and sophomores that they can play at a very high level, which I hope they will continue [to do] next year.”
Isenstein said, “We played well. Jordan pitched incredibly, but we made a couple errors that cost us – one base-running blunder and one fielding mistake that took us out of an inning and cost a run respectively.” He added, “It was a gutsy performance by Jordan. He’s been lights out all year, but we have struggled to put runs up when he is on the mound.” The Kits also played the Huskies in March and lost 1-0 with Crawford on the mound.
Even though the Kits fell short of postseason expectations, they feel they had a solid season. “This season, from a record standpoint, didn’t measure up to what we had hoped. But our team was more than just wins and losses,” said Crawford. “We faced great adversity [and] we were at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Through it all we stayed together and that shows more about our team than the win/loss record. I’ll take that over a winning record any day.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Kits have reason to be optimistic: The members of this team are close and have a never-say-die attitude on the field that has them feeling confident about next spring.
“I think that we really play [well] as a team. We are a close-knit group of guys and our talent is on the rise,” said junior infielder James Hageman. “We play our best and never think we are out of a game. We want to win and that is what we will do next year. We are a solid defensive team with good pitching and our bats will come to life.”
If the bats do indeed come to life next season, there is no telling where the Kits will end up.