At some point during Evanston’s baseball showdown with rival New Trier at Rocky Miller Park Thursday, ETHS infielders Jesse Heuer and Joe Snapp had a discussion about just what inning was about to begin, the third or the fourth.
They couldn’t keep track on the Northwestern University scoreboard because the City of Evanston wouldn’t allow school officials to turn on the electronic scoreboard — not even in broad daylight.
But Heuer didn’t need the scoreboard to recognize a pressure situation when he saw it in the top of the 7th inning. The Wildkit junior ripped a 2-out, 2-strike single to center with the bases loaded and delivered a 5-4 Central Suburban League South division victory for ETHS.
Charlie Maxwell came through in the clutch on the mound, producing a game-ending strikeout with the potential tying run on second base, as the Kits ended a skid that had seen them drop 4 of their last 5 games.
Those two clutch performances gave a boost to an Evanston team that has struggled in pressure situations for the last week and a half. On Thursday, they scored all 5 runs with two outs to earn a split of the home-and-home series with the Trevians and improved to 10-6 overall, 2-3 in CSL play.
New Trier submarine reliever Jack Falk, who earned the save in a 3-1 New Trier triumph earlier this week, still hasn’t retired Heuer. He hit Heuer with a pitch with the bases loaded to account for the ETHS run on Tuesday, but Heuer only saw two pitches from the right-hander then and had never faced a submarine-style pitcher before in his career.
Falk appeared to be on his way to another save when he got pinch-hitter Alex Moore to tap into a force play at the plate for the second out in a bases-loaded situation in the 7th. But the left-handed hitting Heuer lashed a 2-2 pitch back up the middle to score teammates Ben Wilson and Oliver Baldwin-Edwards, and Maxwell earned the save for ETHS in relief of starter Drew Martinson despite allowing a run in the home half of the 7th.
“I stayed up on the plate against him because his ball runs out (away from the hitter) against me,” said Heuer. “I just had to adapt to his style and focus on shooting the ball to the left side. I was able to get the barrel on it, and that hit will definitely be a boost for me because of the way I’ve been struggling with 2 strikes.
“It was a lot of fun to play here today and I think this win will give the whole team a boost in confidence.”
ETHS head coach Frank Consiglio couldn’t say for certain that the rivalry win would turn his team’s season back around. But he pointed out that the foundation for the victory was set in a practice session on Wednesday.
“We have not had a chance to have many practices lately, so yesterday we had them all working on their approaches at the plate,” Consiglio said. “We talked about understanding their identity in the batter’s box and about how to grind out at-bats. We changed our entire mindset, I think, because we’ve been missing those 2-out hits and walks.
“I’m most proud of the fact that they were able to translate what we worked on in practice into the game. They got results right away and did a much better job of getting to ‘their’ pitches to hit.”
Evanston broke through with 2 runs in the third inning with four straight 2-out hits against New Trier starter Will Jamieson, with Adam Geibel and Wilson smacking RBI singles. Evanston added another run in the top of the 4th when Heuer drew a 2-out walk and came around on a single by B.J. Johnson and a wild pitch.
Martinson allowed single runs to the Trevs in the third and fourth, and then yielded the tying run in the sixth on singles by Matt Kann and Ryan Acri. But he worked out of a bases-loaded jam by retiring pinch-hitter Sean Douaire on a routine grounder to short to end the frame.
Martinson finished with 6 strikeouts in his 6 inning stint and walked 2. He surrendered 5 hits.
Maxwell played his first game on the field that will become his home field next season, when he dons a Northwestern uniform. The scoreboard will be turned back on at that point but it’s unlikely that he’ll be in position to pick up another bullpen save.
On offense, he went 1-for-1 with 3 walks and two of those free passes were intentional.
New Trier didn’t go down without a fight in the 7th, as No. 9 hitter Eric Nicholas hit a one-out double to left and scored on Kann’s two-out single. Maxwell reached back to whiff designated hitter Will McNulty on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
“I’ll probably never pitch here again — at least I assume I won’t ,” said the Evanston senior. “It was so much fun to play here today and against these guys (New Trier).
“I didn’t get to pitch much last year because we had enough help in relief. But this year I feel like I’m more confident in these situations. I want the ball in that situation, and this was a great win for us.”