It’s a good thing for Evanston’s baseball team that Jackson Mihevc has such a good memory.
The Wildkit senior’s bases-loaded triple in the first inning of the Class 4A Loyola Academy Sectional tournament semifinal game Wednesday helped Evanston knock off top-seeded Maine South 5-2 and sent the Kits into the sectional championship game set for Saturday at 11 a.m.
Evanston (22-13-1) advanced to the sectional finals for the first time since 2004 and will face either New Trier or host Loyola in the title game matchup. During the regular season, the Kits swept the Trevians in their home-and-home series and also blanked Loyola 1-0.
Three-baggers by Mihevc and slugging first baseman Eli Otting proved the difference as ETHS sent Maine South to the sidelines after splitting two Central Suburban League South division games against the Hawks (25-7) this spring.
The winners tagged 8 hits in the first four innings against Maine South southpaw Gehrig Parker, none bigger than Mihevc’s triple into the right field corner.
Evanston had loaded the bases after two outs on Otting’s double off the left field fence, Marty Fenn’s single to right and a walk to Sam Evans. Mihevc remembered facing Parker in similar situations in the past, and lined a 1-2 pitch into the corner and chased home all three runners.
“All of our guys were so hyped up in the dugout, and we always stress scoring in the first inning,” Mihevc said. “Those guys over there (in the Maine South dugout) ended my basketball season, so no, I didn’t mind that hit at all. I’d go along with that as the biggest hit of my high school career.
“I’ve been playing against that kid (Parker) since we were 9 years old and I knew he’d throw his knuckleball once he got ahead in the count. I just waited for that knuckleball and reacted.”
“You don’t often see a game won in the first inning, but this game was won in the first inning,” said Evanston coach Frank Consiglio about Mihevc’s hit. “That was a game-changer. I thought Jackson’s at-bat was just tremendous.
“It was huge to jump on them 3-0 like that, and another big thing was adding on those two runs (on Otting’s triple) late in the game. I thought the first ball Eli hit was out, and the second ball I thought should have been caught.”
Otting just missed another home run to add to his school record total in the first, and it was his towering fly ball to right with two outs and teammates Charlie Maxwell and Jack Blanchard on base in the fourth inning that did some decisive damage, too.
Maine South right fielder Kyle Dolan appeared to lose the ball in the sun momentarily, twisted completely around and then slipped and fell as the blow landed beyond his reach. Both runners scored easily and Otting chugged to third with his third triple of the season.
Pitchers Dylan Mulvihill and Russell Snapp took it from there. Sophomore starter Mulvihill improved to 7-2 on the season after scattering 6 hits over the first 6 innings, and Snapp pitched a scoreless seventh to earn his first save of the season.
Maine South’s only runs came on Parker’s solo homer in the third and on a single, an outfield error and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
“I thought our pitcher (Mulvihill) did a good job of not giving in to their hitters when he got behind in the count,” Consiglio said. “Dylan didn’t nibble today and that’s what usually gets him in trouble. With his stuff, he just let them get themselves out. He did a fantastic job of getting ground ball outs, staying in rhythm, and working to his strengths.”