Alex Vasquez fouled a ball off his foot Wednesday against Conant and had to take a couple of days off.
Turns out that was more of a break for the pitching staffs at Von Steuben and Lake Forest than it was for Vasquez.
Back in action after missing those two games, Vasquez banged out four hits and led a 14-hit parade as Evanston’s baseball team buried Niles North 14-2 Saturday to start Central Suburban League play.
Vasquez went 4-for-5 with four runs-batted-in, two runs scored, and a stolen base to help the Wildkits improve to 6-3-1 on the season. It marked the third win in a row for ETHS and the 5th triumph in 6 games.
Vasquez earned a spot with the ETHS varsity as a freshman based mostly on his defensive excellence at shortstop. Inserted in the leadoff slot this year in the batting order by head coach Frank Consiglio, the junior standout has responded with seven hits just this week despite missing two games.
The Wildkits appear to be hitting their stride entering next week’s home-and-home series with arch-rival New Trier, and Vasquez is a player who can set the offensive tone at that leadoff position.
“Alex is really a traditional leadoff hitter,” Coach Consiglio said. “He’s such an excellent baserunner and it’s simple – when he’s on base, we score. Even after losing his entire sophomore year [due to COVID-19 season cancellations], he has really picked up his game on the offensive end. Early in the season, he’s been hitting the ball hard, but he just couldn’t get anything to fall until this week. He’s really never over-matched at the plate.”
After flying out in his first at-bat, Vasquez pounded two doubles and two singles as the Wildkits scored a run in the second inning, two more in the third, one in the fourth and then poured it on with five-run outbursts in the fifth and seventh.
Every single Evanston starter had at least one hit with the exception of Dylan Elwood, who walked three times and contributed a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, Briggs Bossert, Owen Brooks, and Matthew Prah tossed a combined four-hitter. The Vikings scored a pair of unearned runs versus Brooks in the fifth to avoid losing by the 10-run slaughter rule.
Bossert’s four scoreless innings weren’t exactly “clean” – he only retired North once in order – but Coach Consiglio is counting on the sidearming right-hander as a key member of the starting rotation if the Wildkits expect to challenge New Trier for the division title.
Bossert fell behind in the count against almost every hitter and that’s not a recipe for success against the better teams on the Wildkit schedule. Six of the first nine hitters led 1-0 in the count, and that’s a pattern that the coach wants to change.
“Briggs is just so dominant when he gets that first pitch strike,” Coach Consiglio pointed out, “and he didn’t do that today. He got away with it because he was overpowering against them, but he really needs to live at 0-1 and let the movement on his fastball take over. He needs to get better and get that first strike.”
Peter Barbato’s long two-out double started the scoring in the Evanston second as he plated teammate Ben Gutowski, who had singled and stole second. Two wild pickoff throws and a Joe Liss sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third, and Vasquez’s RBI double scored another run in the fourth.
In the fifth, the visitors sent nine hitters to the plate, with doubles by Vasquez and Evan Burns accounting for most of the damage. Both Vasquez and Liss then added to their RBI totals to finish off a five-run seventh.
“We had some good in-game adjustments from our hitters today, which was nice. They started hitting the ball in the gaps instead of pulling it,” said Coach Consiglio. “Our biggest adjustment this year is figuring out who to bring in [from the bullpen] at the back end of our games.
“Every single loss we have can be attributed to not having the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings figured out yet. But we’re starting to figure it out.”