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Frank Consiglio wasn’t worried about his pitching or his defense coming into the 2022 high school baseball season.

The biggest concern the Evanston Township High School head baseball coach had was whether or not his young and inexperienced squad would score enough runs to make a difference.

So far, so good.

The Wildkits didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball in frigid conditions at Northwestern University on Monday, but rallied from deficits of 5-0 and 7-2 to pull off an 8-7 victory over Notre Dame and remain unbeaten so far this spring. The two teams meet again Tuesday in Niles.

Evanston opened with wins over Oak Park-River Forest (9-3) and Conant (10-4) and scored 10 runs in one inning against Barrington in a contest that was rained out over spring break. That’s a lot of offense for a team that starts two sophomores and four juniors and figured to rely heavily on a strong pitching staff to keep the Kits in games until the younger players gained some experience.

Trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday, the Wildkits plated the tying and winning runs on consecutive sacrifice flies hit by Brandon Brokowski and Eron Vega to complete an improbable comeback.

How cold was it? The players needed gloves on BOTH hands at the lakefront, where the game time temperature was right at a (freezing) 32 degrees.

The sloppily played contest found the winners surrendering seven unearned runs, with four errors, three wild pitches and two passed balls contributing to the deficits they had to overcome. Notre Dame’s hurlers threw four wild pitches, three of which scored runs for ETHS, and the Dons also committed a key two-out throwing error in the sixth to help the Kits pull within a run.

“In a game like this, in conditions like this, it’s hard to play to your strengths. And we didn’t do that today,” Consiglio said. “When that happens the question is, now how do you win? You have to make adjustments, put the ball in play and hope good things will happen.

“We had to battle and just do what we could to win today. We put the pressure on Notre Dame in big spots. We really competed once we had runners on base. When they get action on the bases, that’s when they’re at their best, and that’s what’s so encouraging so far.”

Notre Dame pushed across five unearned runs in the top of the second against Evanston mound ace Hank Liss and tallied a couple more of the unearned variety against reliever Vega in the fifth. That should have been more than enough, especially since the Wildkits only finished with a total of five hits – four singles and a bloop double – on the day.

But after Dons’ lefty reliever Ryan Greifelt mowed down nine straight batters – six via strikeouts – the Kits chased him by putting together a four-run rally in the sixth.

Alex Vasquez started the rally with a leadoff walk, stole second and came around to score on Vega’s RBI single. Jared Lortie’s bloop double to right plated another run, Vega crossed next on a wild pitch, and then Lortie and Heath Ballard pulled off a two-out double steal, with Lortie crossing the plate.

Pinch-hitter Sam Sheikh reached on a throwing error that cut the margin to 7-6 before Liss bounced to second to end the rally still one run short.

Relievers Mason Denlow and Owen Brooks put out the fire when Notre Dame tried to add some insurance in the top of the seventh – and then it was the offense’s turn.

Ben Gutowski worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Nick Baffa, the third Notre Dame pitcher on the day, and stopped at second when Vasquez pushed a ground ball single through the right side of the defense.

Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Brokowski flied deep enough to center to score the tying run – with Vasquez alertly scampering to third on the same play – and Vega’s line drive to left produced the walk-off victory.

“We know our top four hitters are strong and they’re going to put the ball in play,” Consiglio said. “Our 5-6-7 guys? We haven’t figured it out right now, but there have been a lot of quality at-bats from them over the first couple of games. Sometimes you can do too much at the plate and we’re really just focused on having them compete within the strike zone right now.

“Those kids are really smart kids even if they don’t have the talent of the top four guys and even though they’re not as experienced. They execute the game plan and give themselves a chance up there. And in high school baseball, you can’t score if you don’t hit throughout the entire lineup.”

Evanston opened the 2022 campaign on March 17 at Triton College with a night game against Oak Park-River Forest. After a slow start, the Wildkits scored at least one run in in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings to defeat the Huskies 9-3.

Gutowski, a returning starter, went 3-for-3 with two runs scored for the winners and was one of six Evanston players to drive in runs. Addison Blough rapped a pinch-hit two-run single as part of a five-run seventh to put the game away.        

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