Hank Liss blasted a three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning and Evanston’s baseball team survived one of the scariest moments in program history to complete a series sweep of Glenbrook South on Friday with a 7-4 triumph.
The Central Suburban League South division contest marked the second time this spring that the Wildkits have played a game suspended by darkness. Like the recent win over Highland Park, Friday’s game in Glenview lasted just one extra inning.
Evanston had to regroup after the Titans literally knocked starting pitcher Eron Vega out of the game with two outs in the fourth inning on Thursday. Vega, a sophomore right-hander who is trying to secure a spot in the starting rotation for ETHS, was hit in the jaw on a line drive back to the mound hit by South’s James Hackett.
Vega suffered only a bruised jaw but, after a visit from the GBS trainer, was removed with a 4-0 lead. Evanston’s bullpen couldn’t close the door after that, leaving it up to Liss to provide the final heroics when play resumed on Friday.
Veteran Wildkit head coach Frank Consiglio admitted he was stunned by the turn of events in that fourth inning.
“My initial reaction? Call an ambulance, he’s done for the year,” Consiglio said. “I’ve seen pitchers hit and hurt over the years in a lot of different ways and I was nervous when I saw him go down. I knew it was trouble. He’s a tough kid, and he was very fortunate. I’m glad he’s still healthy.
“There haven’t been enough innings [available because of poor weather] for us to give Eron many opportunities. We did it against New Trier [he suffered the loss] and we wanted to do it again this week against a good GBS team. We wanted him to get opportunities to pitch against teams with righty and lefty hitters. We didn’t get the results we wanted against New Trier, but we didn’t see any hard-hit balls against his fastball, either. I thought he did a fantastic job on Thursday. He kept them off-balance and win or lose, he was a bright spot for us.”
Prior to the injury, Vega had tossed three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Ironically, the ETHS pitcher actually started a pair of double plays himself – on comebackers to the mound – to keep the Titans off the board.
The visitors built a 4-0 lead on Addison Blough’s RBI single in the second and a three-run outburst in the third. Two wild pitches by GBS hurler Jason Ban produced runs and Brandon Brokowski singled home a run as part of a 3-for-4 performance at the plate.
Reliever Owen Brooks, however, was no mystery to a GBS attack that was dormant against Vega and in an earlier 2-0 loss to the Kits. A throwing error helped the hosts cut the deficit in half in the fifth, and they pulled even in the sixth on a 2-run single by the No. 8 hitter in the batting order, Alex Yoon.
Mason Denlow took over in the seventh and worked out of a jam, striking out Jack DiSano in an epic 10-pitch battle after the Titans had pushed the potential game-winning run to second base.
Liss threw out Nic Swanson in that frame when he attempted to stretch a 1-out single into a double, a key play when the next two hitters reached on a single and a walk. Denlow whiffed DiSano and then set the Titans down in order when the game resumed on Friday to earn the victory.
Evanston’s winning rally came with one out in the eighth. Heath Ballard reached on an error, Blough walked, and one out later Liss homered to clear the bases and sent the Wildkits to their 14th win in 17 outings so far this season.
The Wildkits will host Vernon Hills in a CSL crossover game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., weather permitting.