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After advancing to the IHSA Class 4A Niles West Sectional final round last season, the Evanston Township High School baseball team appears to be hungry to get there again (if not farther) this season as they have gotten the 2016 season off to a solid start.
In the season opener on March 21, the Wildkits took on Lane Tech and lost by a score of 5-1. In that game, senior starter Andrew Martinson pitched four scoreless innings while striking out eight batters. But the bullpen struggled to make Drew’s performance stand up, as the Kits’ relievers allowed five runs over the fifth and sixth innings, which proved costly as Lane Tech took a 5-0 lead into the final stanza. But the Kits kept fighting as they got on the board in the top of the seventh after junior outfielder Joe Snapp’s RBI single. The comeback unfortunately came up short as that was all the offense the Kits could generate in the loss.
The next day, the Kits looked to bounce back when they took on Oak Park-River Forest in the rematch of last season’s Sectional final that saw Oak Park end the Kits’ season on a sour note. But this time around, the Kits got revenge as they prevailed 5-4 in their home opener. In that game, the Kits took a first inning lead after senior outfielder Ben Wilson hit a two-run triple and then junior second baseman Jesse Heuer had a sacrifice fly to drive in Ben to make it 3-0. The visitors responded with four unanswered runs, including a three-run fifth inning to give them a 4-3 lead. But the Kits responded in a big way in the bottom of the seventh. After the Kits loaded the bases with one out, a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder BJ Johnson tied the score at 4-4. From there, Jesse stepped to the plate and sent the first pitch he saw into right field for a two-out, game-winning RBI single, giving the Kits their first victory of the season in dramatic fashion. With the victory, the Kits improved to 1-1 overall.
After the Oak Park game, the Kits traveled to Vero Beach, Fla., March 25-29 for their spring break trip. The Kits opened the trip on March 25 by beating Indian Hills 7-0. Then on March 26, they shut out McQuaid 4-0 and then beat Tri Village 8-1. From there, the trip continued with two games on March 28. The Kits beat Franklin Regional by a score of 9-3 and Hilton by a 4-2 tally. On March 29, the Kits wrapped up the trip with another win, beating Boardman 9-3. The victory gave the Kits a perfect 6-0 record on the trip and seventh win in a row as they improved to 7-1 overall.
“I thought we played well. We figured out some things including who is going to fit into the rotation and who is going to be able to help us win when we get to the Conference season and the playoff season,” said head coach Frank Consiglio. “We started seeing some pieces [coming] together. I thought we dominated a lot of innings out there, which was impressive as we gave up nine runs in six games. So defensively I thought we dominated,” the Coach explained. “We have not dominated a game yet, but I feel like we are dominating enough innings to be a good team. Florida is about coming together and figuring out who you are.”
The Coach added, “I am pleased with the result and winning the games; there are things we have to tighten up and we will do that. As long as we take what we learned out there and make improvements, we will be fine.”
When asked which players he thought stepped up on the trip, Coach Consiglio said, “A lot of players played well, including seniors Charlie Maxwell and Tyler McHolland. They had a good trip.” The Coach continued, “They were able to put some at-bats together in the middle of the order, which is important. I also thought junior Chris Brown put some good at-bats together.
Having won seven of their first eight games, the Kits are certainly off to the kind of start they had hoped for, but Coach Consiglio feels there is still work to be done on offense and the pitching staff needs to keep performing well in order for them to have yet another memorable season.
“[On the Florida trip] I was more impressed with our defense and pitching and our ability to control the run game rather than our offense. We put the ball in the air way too much and until we are a team that does not do that, we are not going to win those big games,” the Coach explained. “I think pitching will be key. Andrew has gotten off to a great start and Joe has gotten off to a great start so I think those guys will help us. We should play with a little swag and confidence, [which] will go a long way with this group and understanding that they are going to be able to compete at a high level, so we should be fine.”
On April 5, the Wildkits lost to Hersey, 5-4, in a cruel twist of fate. The Wildkits scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning, but the game was then called due to darkness. Calling the game cancelled the Wildkits two runs, and Hersey was given the win based on the score at the end of the sixth inning.
The Wildkits were scheduled to play Notre Dame last night, after this paper went to press. From there, the Kits visit Highland Park on April 12, and then host Glenbrook North, Loyola, and Libertyville on consecutive days, April 14-16.