Evanston’s offense got a lift about a month ago when Sam Sheikh was promoted to the No. 2 slot in the batting order.
Sheikh was the right man in the right spot again on Saturday, May 28, as Evanston’s baseball team continued its postseason quest.
Sheikh’s opposite field double in the bottom of the 11th inning knocked in the winning run in walk-off fashion as the Wildkits claimed the championship of their own Class 4A regional tournament in a marathon affair at Northwestern University.
Evanston, now 21-9 on the season, will join Loyola Academy, Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South at the Loyola Sectional tournament. The Wildkits will meet Loyola at 5 p.m. Thursday with the championship game set for 11 a.m. next Saturday. The two teams did not meet during the regular season.
Saturday’s regional title showdown featured “old-school” baseball that included a rare sacrifice bunt attempt for the Wildkits to set the winning rally in motion, a rally that led to a celebratory dogpile at second base after the left-handed hitting Sheikh dropped a line drive over the head of the third baseman to score Charlie Kalil with the game-winner.
Kalil’s ground ball single with one out, through the right side, was a turning point in the contest according to ETHS coach Frank Consiglio. “Charlie struggled throughout the game – we pinch-hit for him at one point – and that hit was really a big hit for him, and for us.
“I normally wouldn’t bunt in that situation, especially since there was already one out, but I knew Prospect would intentionally walk Hank Liss in that situation. And I liked Sammy in that matchup against a soft-tossing pitcher. He handles off-speed pitching well, makes good contact and finds the holes out there. He couldn’t have thrown it out there any better.
“He was probably ready to move up to that No. 2 spot in mid-season, but I wanted to see the other parts of the game from him, like his defense and his baserunning. That had to get better. He battles pitchers and he doesn’t strike out a lot. He’s the perfect sandwich [hitter] between Liss and Alex Vasquez.”
Liss started and yielded a run to the Knights in the first inning. He departed after four innings after throwing 90 pitches, and relievers Owen Brooks and Mason Denlow allowed only three hits while combining for seven shutout innings.
Brooks, who usually is only used once through the batting order due to his unusual sidearm style, tossed five innings in his longest stint of the year.
“He pitched five innings of lights-out baseball for us,” Consiglio praised. “He did a fantastic job, and he showed a lot of character. He gutted it out in a playoff game that was filled with emotion.”
That emotion included the ejection of two players and Prospect’s head coach. Evanston’s Ben Gutowski was booted for his celebratory spike of the ball onto the turf at Koldyke Field after he robbed Prospect’s Jake Bush of a potential run-scoring extra base hit in the top of the eighth inning. Gutowski must miss Evanston’s next playoff game because of the ejection.
“Ben made the most unbelievable play, because that kid really smoked it,” said Consiglio. “He just spiked the ball because he was excited, he wasn’t taunting anyone. He was all alone out there in left field when he did it. He made the play of a lifetime and now it’s marred by the fact that he got tossed out. It is what it is, but it’s not good.
“It was a really well-played high school baseball game. Prospect was the No. 10 [sectional] seed, but they started playing well at the end of the year and whoever won today deserved it. It would have been a character win in either direction. But ours is a tough bunch of kids – and they really compete.”