Nothing would please Evanston baseball coach Frank Consiglio more than to win a Central Suburban League South division championship with a young team that’s still “a year away” from reaching its full potential.
But there’s no real big picture for the Wildkits until the Illinois High School Association state tournament series starts in a couple of weeks.
In a matchup of two teams seeded 1-2 in the Class 4A Loyola Academy sectional tournament complex, Maine South blanked the Wildkits 4-0 Tuesday at ETHS and moved one game ahead of the losers in the loss column in the CSL South standings.
Maine South right-hander Braden Quinn hurled a six-hitter, only walked one and struck out four in a distance performance. The Hawks improved to 20-7 overall, 11-1 in league play, while the Kits lost for the first time since April 21 and fell to 15-4 and 7-2, respectively.
Consiglio can’t even think ahead to the rematch with the Hawks on Thursday in Park Ridge. The Wildkits are just beginning a schedule that adds up to nine games in 10 days – all conference games that count in the standings. Rainouts have forced ETHS into a slate that features games every single day, weather still permitting, and is guaranteed to grind down even a deep pitching staff.
The Kits host Niles West on Wednesday, visit the Hawks on Thursday, are on the road Friday at Niles West, and host Deerfield on Saturday to complete the slate of games this week. They’re scheduled to play every day of next week too.
“Rotation? We don’t have a rotation we can set up for this,” Consiglio said. “This is a huge hill for us to climb, a really tough spot for us to be in. It’s a big challenge.
“You do want to focus on winning a conference championship whenever you have a chance to win it. And obviously, we want to compete and win as many games as we can. We just really have to build some momentum for the playoffs when they start in a couple of weeks.”
The Wildkits got a reminder Tuesday from the Hawks about just what championship baseball looks like. Quinn only walked one, his teammates played flawless defense and the visitors scored four unearned runs against ETHS ace Hank Liss in the top of the fifth to break open what had been a scoreless mound duel.
“You can’t beat a really good high school baseball team when you have to earn everything. They didn’t give us any openings today,” Consiglio said. “And they capitalized on our mistakes. They’re a good team.”
Liss had better luck at the plate than he did on the mound. The junior went 3-for-3 on offense, with a pair of doubles, but surrendered seven hits in five innings and walked three while striking out seven to take the loss.
South’s winning rally started with a single to center by Kerim Orucevic in the fifth. Third baseman Heath Ballard misplayed a grounder, and after a strikeout and a wild pitch, cleanup hitter Noah Collins poked an opposite field single that scored both runners.
Brady Marques doubled home the third run for the visitors, and a botched attempt to thwart a double steal resulted in a throwing error to the plate by ETHS shortstop Alex Vasquez that produced the final run.
Evanston missed an opportunity to take an early lead in the home half of the third. Addison Blough singled with one out, and tried to score on a two-out double off the Blue Monster wall by Liss. But the Hawks executed the relay perfectly and Blough was nailed at the plate for the final out.
Singles by Ben Gutowski and Ballard in the seventh gave Wildkit fans hope for a late two-out rally, but Quinn fired a third strike past Blough to end the game.
“I thought we did a really poor job at the plate today,” added Consiglio. “We just didn’t play championship baseball.”