After winning the IHSA Class 4A Maine South Regional, the Evanston Township High School baseball team looked to advance to the Supersectionals for the second straight year when they took on Oak Park-River Forest on June 6 in the Niles West Sectional championship game.
Unfortunately, the Wildkits came up a bit short, falling to the Huskies by a score of 4-0 in 11 innings. In that game, senior starting pitcher Russell Snapp pitched 10 shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out three batters and picking off two base runners. In the top of the 11th, the Huskies tallied four runs to take a 4-0 lead. The Kits were unable to get on the board in the bottom of the inning, thus ending their season on a sour note.
“It was a battle. It could have gone either way. [It was] two powerhouse teams [playing] 10 innings of scoreless baseball. Russell was phenomenal and their guy was phenomenal [as both starting pitchers lasted 10 innings]. We just got the sense that whoever won that game was going to be a State contender [which turned out to be true, as Oak Park advanced to the final four]. Unfortunately we just could not get the [key] hit,” said head coach Frank Consiglio regarding his team’s performance. “We made a couple of base-running mistakes that, in a 0-0 game, cost you, and we just could not get the hit. At the end of the day, once the [starting] pitchers were out, they got the hit in a 0-0 game and we had to pitch in a 0-0 game,. and that is what it came down to.”
But despite the loss, the Kits had a memorable season. Not only did they win 13 straight games from April 22 to May 16, they won a share of the Central Suburban League South Conference title with New Trier and Glenbrook South. The Conference title was the team’s first since 1990. In addition, the Kits earned the No. 1 seed in the Niles West Sectional while setting a school record for wins in a season while posting a 28-8-1 record.
Asked how he felt the season went, Coach Consiglio said, “Phenomenal. I mean winningest team in ETHS history, 28-8-1 ballclub, Conference champions, Regional champions, back-to-back Sectional appearances. That is just a phenomenal baseball team.” The Coach added, “They just competed. They could beat anybody. In baseball you got to get that bounce, and at the end of the day, we did not get the bounce and they [Oak Park] did.”
When asked how it felt to set a school record for wins in a season, Coach Consiglio said,
“It feels great. That is where the program is heading. It is our third consecutive year with 20 wins, and that has never been accomplished,” The Coach explained. “We have 51 wins in two years as that senior group heads out, and the big picture of it is just getting the program to where every year you can compete for Regional and Sectional championships, and that is where we feel we are at right now.”
The 2015 Kits certainly set the bar high as far as expectations go for the 2016 season. But Coach Consiglio says the goal every year is to be in position to capture a Regional and Sectional title. “The expectation is that you win a Regional championship, contend for Conference, and once you win a Regional championship, anybody can go deep and that is just what baseball is,” the Coach explained. “You set your entire program on that goal. To win a Regional and contend in Conference and put yourself [in position] to win the Sectional, and that is our goal every single year. And that is going to be our goal [next year], and we think we can step up to that.”
In order for that to happen, Coach Consiglio knows what his team must do. “We have got to defend the same way we did this year. I feel like we were one of the better defensive clubs out there this year, and we have got to pitch.”
The Coach added, “We got Tyler McHolland behind the plate, Charlie Maxwell at shortstop, and Ben Wilson in center field [all returning], so we are strong up the middle. We [also] have Dylan Mulvihill, who should be our No. 1 [starting pitcher] coming back on the mound. So it is a very similar team, we just got to work out second base and third base and we will be fine. We were kind of in that same position last year and it worked out.”
If all goes to plan, look for things to work out for the Kits once again next year and for them to be in position to have yet another memorable season.
ETHS senior Russell Snapp recorded his 20th career victory on June 1 versus Maine South. The 20 wins set a career record at ETHS, and he is the only pitcher in school history to win both regional and sectional championship games.
Russell scored two wins as a sophomore in 2013, then posted a 9-3 won-loss record as a junior while leading the Kits to the Elite Eight in 2014. He took a 9-2 record and a 1.72 earned-run average into the matchup with Oak Park in the Supersectionals on June 6.
Russell hurled a 2-hit shutout for the first 10 innings in a brilliant finale to a brilliant career in the Supersectional game against Oak Park. He was taken out after his pitch count reached 119. Oak Park broke through for four runs in the 11th inning against the ETHS bullpen and denied the Wildkits a second straight trip to the Elite Eight. Oak Park’s triumph knocked the top-seeded Kits out of the postseason picture and ended the winningest season in ETHS history at 28-8-1. (Article based on excerpts of stories by Dennis Mahoney, ETHS Sports Information.)