Every season since he took over the Evanston Township High School baseball program, Frank Consiglio has espoused a one-inning-at-a-time approach to building team success.
Consiglio’s philosophy was put to the ultimate test Saturday morning in Winnetka against arch-rival New Trier.
That’s when Noah Cryns made sure the Wildkits won the seventh inning – and the eighth and ninth innings too.
The Evanston junior pitched three innings of scoreless relief, then tripled in the top of the ninth to trigger the game-winning rally as the Kits outlasted the Trevians 7-5 in nine innings.
Taking the mound in the highest-leverage situation of his short varsity career, Cryns retired the last three New Trier batters with the tying runs on base in the middle of a sleet storm in 40-degree temperatures. His heroics enabled Evanston to complete a regular-season sweep of the Trevs for the first time since 2014 and secured their ninth win in a row to date.
Evanston (17-2 overall, 5-0 Central Suburban League South division) turned to Cryns after blowing a 4-0 lead with shoddy defense. The junior right-hander struck out six in his 3-inning stint, pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth, and tamed the heart of the New Trier order with the game on the line in the ninth.
The dramatic conclusion to a week where the Wildkits twice had to continue games suspended due to bad weather – against Maine West and New Trier – likely knocked the Trevians (11-3, 2-2) out of the conference race.
But Consiglio wasn’t thinking about the big picture after winning those last three innings.
“This was a good win for us and we learned a lot,” said the veteran coach. “We don’t talk about winning the conference or anything big picture like that. We talk about winning the next inning. We’re still learning about who can fill what roles for us, and one of the things we learned today was about Noah. He’s been nothing but good for us this year and today he was fantastic! He’s a dynamic player, and you win with dynamic players.
“It’s always nice to beat a good team – and it’s nicer when it’s against New Trier, no doubt.”
Cryns rose to the occasion after New Trier broke through against starting pitcher Eron Vega, then pushed across three unearned runs against ETHS closer Mason Denlow to seize a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Evanston responded with singles by Brandon Brokowski and Hank Liss and pinch-runner Devin Fox scored from third base when Charlie Kalil rapped into a double play, knotting the score at 5-5 and giving Cryns a chance at the spotlight.
He didn’t disappoint.
“I wasn’t really stressed, not at all. It was just a big situation where I knew I had to come through for our team,” said Cryns. “The sleet was coming down and I could barely see the signs that Brandon [catcher Brokowski] was putting down. I just put the ball in the strike zone, and they didn’t hit it hard.
“For us to sweep one of the top teams in the state like this is a big deal. We’re not underdogs. We’re the real deal.”
Cryns lined a leadoff triple over the head of New Trier center fielder Aiden Nolan as the weather turned ugly in the top of the ninth inning. Jack Wilson, the fourth pitcher used by the Trevians, issued a walk to Vega, who promptly swiped second base.
Brokowski went down swinging for the first out, and the Trevians intentionally walked Hank Liss to load the bases. But the strategy backfired when Wilson walked Kalil on a 3-2 pitch to force Cryns home.
One out later, Wilson uncorked a wild pitch to chase across an insurance run before finally putting out the fire.
Then it was Cryns’ turn. Nolan whacked a leadoff single and all hands were safe when shortstop Kalil’s flip for a possible force play at second base was too late. The Evanston hurler responded by fanning Graham Mastros and Dylan Mayer, and Brenden Stressler bounced out to first base to end the three-hour marathon.
Sam Sheikh’s two-run RBI single highlighted a four-run uprising by the visitors in the second inning, and with starter Vega on cruise control, the Wildkits appeared to be in command.
But in the fifth, designated hitter Mayer homered to straightaway center field and the Trevs scored later on a double down the left field line by Evan Olesker. Denlow replaced Vega but was victimized by a pair of infield errors in the New Trier sixth.
“Defensively, I do not like where we’re at as a team. We didn’t make some plays, but give this team credit for finding a way to win,” said Consiglio. “They never thought for a second they were going to lose this game.”