Part of Evanston’s offensive inconsistency during one stretch of the high school baseball season was a lack of clutch hitting.
But the Wildkits produced a season’s worth of clutch hits in just one inning Monday at New Trier.
Evanston strung together a remarkable seven straight 2-out hits in the fourth inning at Duke Childs Field, enough to secure an 8-4 Central Suburban League South division victory over the Trevians.
Singles by Marty Fenn, Sam Evans, Mackenzie O’Neil, Charlie Maxwell and Jack Blanchard combined with doubles by Eli Otting and James Allen to break open a close 1-0 contest were a welcome sight for ETHS head coach Frank Consiglio, who admitted he lost count of just how many consecutive times the Kits hit safely in that outburst.
The explosion was especially significant with the start of Illinois High School Association state tournament play only a week away.
“I thought it was only about 5 hits in a row,” said Consiglio, who was busy waving runners home from the third base coaching box. “But it was 7 hits and 5 RBI with two outs today, and that’s really remarkable. This is how you win playoff baseball, and we tried to play and coach today like it was a playoff game.
“Two-out hits like that are everything in the playoffs. Today’s game had a playoff atmosphere. And when you think about it from the other side, it’s a big momentum change when it happens to you, and it’s not something that’s easy to recover from. Momentum switches like that are what wins games. We had a 10 or 12-game stretch where we weren’t hitting very well, but the last 10 or 12 games we’re a different team. We’ve simplified our approach, and I can’t ask any more out of our offense lately.”
All that offense helped junior pitcher Russell Snapp ease to his team-leading 7th victory of the season against 3 defeats, with Dylan Mulvihill recording the last two outs on popups with the bases loaded. Evanston improved to 17-11-1 on the season, 8-7 in league play, with the two teams set for a rematch on Wednesday at ETHS.
ETHS seized a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Maxwell singled, stole second and crossed on a single by Otting. That proved to be the calm before the storm against New Trier right-hander Matt Cohen, who surrendered that string of hits in the fourth inning after retiring ETHS cleanup hitter Michael Pope and Jackson Mihevc on routine plays for the first two outs.
Then it was hammer time. Fenn lined a single to center and came around to score when New Trier centerfielder Scott Hammes missed an attempt at a shoestring catch, leading to an RBI double for Allen. Evans and O’Neil smacked line drive singles, Maxwell singled off the first baseman’s glove, and the hits just kept on coming as Blanchard singled past third and Otting delivered his second of three hits, another two-bagger.
Evanston pushed across two unearned insurance runs in the seventh, one on a squeeze bunt by pinch-hitter Peter Downie and another on a run-scoring single by pinch-hitter Joe Franke — with two outs, of course.
New Trier (17-12 overall) did solve Snapp for 9 hits, including four doubles. The junior righty struck out 5 before requiring relief help from Mulvihill.