When Ryan Grossman tells the story 20 years from now, he’ll point out to his children that he delivered the walk-off, game-winning hit on Senior Day for Evanston’s baseball team.
Of course, the fact that his walk-off hit just put the slaughter rule into effect in a 12-2 pasting of Maine East will probably get lost in translation.
Nevertheless, it marked the shining moment in Grossman’s varsity career for one of 16 seniors who saw action for the Central Suburban League South division leaders while they racked up their fifth consecutive victory Saturday at Evanston.
Grossman came off the bench to deliver a pair of hits and several of his classmates also contributed in rare appearances for a senior-dominated roster. Evanston improved to 23-3 overall and 10-1 in league play as winning pitcher Jared Lortie smashed a three-run home run and doubled for ETHS.
At-bats and innings on the mound have been tough to find for all of those seniors and head coach Frank Consiglio admitted it was a challenge for him to manipulate the roster enough to make sure everyone in the Class of 2023 got a turn. But, like coaches in the other varsity sports at ETHS, Senior Day means providing opportunities for seniors who have stuck with their respective programs to the end.
Add the fact that seniors aren’t eligible to play in junior varsity baseball games and they spend a lot of time just practicing, cheering on the starters and warming the bench.
An emotional day
“Senior Day is always tough because there are a lot of emotions,” Consiglio said. “And when you have that many guys, it’s a real challenge to get them all in. I’ve had that many seniors a couple of times in the past, but I don’t remember ever being able to get that many of them into a game.
“I wanted to pick the highest leverage spots I could for all of them. The thing about this group is that ALL of them can play. We have a lot of really good players. It was so much fun to see them having so much fun today.”
Grossman, a backup third baseman who started for the JV squad as a junior, has accepted his role as a reserve and still wants to contribute whenever Consiglio calls on him. He singled up the middle leading off the fifth inning and eventually came around to score on Dylan Denlow’s pinch-hit double off the Blue Monster wall in left field, and singled home junior Braden Grimm with the final run after Grimm’s RBI triple in the sixth.
“It’s difficult, not getting a chance to play much,” Grossman admitted, “but when I get a chance, I try to make the most of it. I try to make the most of every opportunity I get because I’m a team person, and I always have been. I usually pride myself on my defense, but I’ve been seeing the ball well lately [at the plate] and I haven’t been overwhelmed by the velocity.
“Playing time comes and it goes. These guys are my best friends and I cherish every moment I have with them. I’m having so much fun this year!”
Another seldom-used senior, Mads Hansen, earned the start in right field Saturday and contributed a pair of walks, two runs scored and a single in three plate appearances. He started Evanston’s rallies in both the third and fourth innings by patiently drawing walks on 3-2 pitches from Maine East starting pitcher Andrew Merza.
On the mound, Lortie worked three innings and allowed a couple of unearned runs along with three hits. Relievers Akash Sharma, Henry Hayes and Mason Denlow teamed up to retire the last nine Blue Demon batters in a row, with each of them recording a pair of strikeouts.
Maine East (2-13-1 overall, 1-10 CSL) held the Wildkits scoreless until the third, when Hansen walked and Merza, a freshman right-hander, hit Sam Sheikh with a pitch. Charlie Kalil hammered a run-scoring double, Brandon Brokowski was hit by a pitch and Hank Liss singled home a couple of runs for the suddenly energized hosts.
Two batters later, Lortie pounded a fastball over the left field wall as ETHS broke on top 6-1. ETHS tacked on two more runs in the fourth – on a double by Addison Blough – and added a lone run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to put the 10-run slaughter rule into effect.