After finishing the regular season with a record of 19-13-1, the Evanston Township High School baseball team hoped to make a lengthy postseason run as the No. 4 seed heading into the IHSA Class 4A playoffs.
After beating Lincoln Park, 6-2, on May 28 and Notre Dame, 2-1, on May 31 in the Notre Dame Regional, the Kits clinched their first Regional title since 2005. In beating the Dons, the Kits advanced to the Loyola Academy Sectional and took on Maine South in the semifinals on June 4.
Against Maine South, the Kits prevailed, 5-2. They jumped on the Hawks early when Jackson Mihevc hit a bases-loaded triple to give the Kits a 3-0 lead in the first inning. After the Hawks made it a 3-2 game in the fifth, Eli Otting hit a two run triple in the sixth to give the Kits a 5-2 lead, which they did not relinquish as Dylan Mulvihill and Russell Snapp held the Hawks scoreless the rest of the way. It was the Kits 22nd victory, giving them their first trip to the Sectional championship game since 2004.
Since New Trier beat Loyola in the other semifinal matchup, that set up the third Kits-Trevians matchup of the season. The Kits won the other two matchups in the regular season so a win would have given the Kits a third victory over their archrivals. The Kits beat the Trevians, 3-2, on June 7. Snapp once again went the distance while limiting the Trevians to just three hits.
Regarding the team beating New Trier for a third time this season, head coach Frank Consiglio said, “They are the program that everybody kind of looks up to in this area. The bottom line is for you to meet your goals, you are going to have to get through them at some point and for us to get through them was a big deal.”
Indeed. Not only did the Kits sweep the Trevians, they also advanced to the Super Sectional round for the first time since 2003 and for just the third time since 1992. A win in the Schaumburg Super Sectional would have placed the Kits in the State final tournament for the first time in school history.
Unfortunately that was not in the cards. The Kits fell to South Elgin by a score of 7-6 on June 9. The Kits trailed 3-0 early but rallied to get 3-2 in the fourth. Then in the sixth, the Kits tallied four more runs to take a 6-3 lead and looked to be on their way down state to play for a state championship. But unfortunately, South Elgin stormed back and scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to escape with the victory and end the Kits season in heartbreaking fashion.
“It was a great high school baseball game,” said Consiglio. “It was two teams not giving up with multiple comebacks within the game, teams making plays. Both teams had to work to beat the other team and they were not giving it away, and unfortunately they ended up on top. But I thought it was fun to watch.”
When asked what happened in that fateful 7th inning Consiglio said, “Well, they hit. I mean the ball found a hole, and ground balls went through our infield.” He added, “We did not make mistakes, we had the guys in the position we wanted them in and that is baseball. Sometimes you get that lead and you do not finish it off, and that is what happened. They were able to come back on us. But they hit to come back, so that gives us some solids.”
Despite the loss, Consiglio pointed out a number of positives that came from this season. “There are so many positives. Being in the Elite Eight, win a Regional, win a Sectional. I mean that is huge. That is huge for the community. I am happy for the community, happy for Evanston, happy for the kids.” The Coach added, “Just to do that and to make that kind of run, I think everybody involved is more confident that that is going to happen often. That is what we need to work towards.”
Consiglio felt a large part of the team’s success was their ability to play loose in pressure-filled situations throughout the season. “They were able to play the game very loose. There are sometimes where you are a very talented team but you play tight at times, and you make your job much more difficult. I can honestly say outside of a couple of innings all year, this team was as loose as could be,” said Consiglio. The Coach added, “A real energetic team, loved to play with emotions and that is the way they are. That is a credit to them. They were in the tightest, toughest situation and they were as loose as could be and I thought that was a big part of their success.”
The Kits finished the season with a 23-14-1 record and will go down as one of the most successful teams in program history to date. But having gotten so close to having a chance to play for a State title, Consiglio knows what his team has to do in order to get back to this point in the future.
“When you get there and you are that close and you do not get it done, you want to fight like heck to get back. So we just have to realize that we have work to do as a program,” said the Coach. “You got to put in that work and hopefully get another opportunity here soon to make another run. But just to get there was so exciting. It really leaves that taste in your mouth that you cannot wait to get back.”
If the Kits “put in that work” and play the way they played this season, look for them to be in position to make another lengthy postseason run next season.