The Central Suburban League South division baseball race will come down to the final day Wednesday with three teams tied for the lead.
But all Evanston Township High School can do now is play a spoiler role.
The Wildkits couldn’t make enough plays to stay in the race Monday on a sunny afternoon in Northbrook, falling 3-1 to Glenbrook North.
GBN, Maine South and New Trier are all tied at the top with 12-3 conference marks, with ETHS slipping to 11-4. The winner of Wednesday’s Maine South-New Trier matchup will earn at least a share of the crown, and GBN can also earn a tie for the title with a win over Evanston in the division finale Wednesday at ETHS.
The pitching-rich Spartans have only allowed nine runs in their past 10 games and the only run ETHS mustered Monday was of the unearned variety. GBN right-hander Colin Roche turned in a distance performance on the mound, striking out eight and walking three while yielding five hits.
Losing pitcher Hank Liss fanned nine in his six-inning stint and all three runs against him were unearned. Evanston’s inability to make routine plays knocked the Kits out of the championship picture, according to head coach Frank Consiglio.
Of even bigger concern for the veteran coach, however, is the dent in Evanston’s confidence. The Kits haven’t been able to put individual mistakes behind them. It’s a vibe that’s lingered much too long in the last two weeks of the regular season.
Evanston (25-6 overall) owns the No. 1 seed for the Class 4A Evanston Sectional tournament that begins next week and the last thing the Wildkits want to happen is for those mistakes – mistakes every high school team will make – to pile up on them.
“The biggest plays of the game came in that fourth inning [when the Spartans scored twice],” said Consiglio. “We thought we had the runner at second base [on a steal attempt] and we didn’t get him, and then we couldn’t make a routine play on a ground ball [in a throwing error by shortstop Braden Grimm]. You can’t beat talented teams when you give them four or five outs in an inning. You’ll have a hard time competing when you do that.
Mental side of the game
“They’re putting in the work and effort physically every day. They’re really working hard. But when you’re not making plays consistently, that’s the mental side of the game. The last week or so I’ve seen that when guys don’t make a play, their heads are down like, ‘Oh, I blew the game.’ They stop looking forward to the next pitch, the next play, the next at-bat.
“You can see it in their demeanor, that a mistake impacts them throughout the rest of the game. We’re not going to make every play, but we need to find ways to impact the game even when things aren’t going well. We’re still learning how to do that. We have to play with confidence and get past our mistakes easier than we have been.”
Evanston grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Liss launched a leadoff double to right center. Pinch-runner Jack Kaplan came around to score when GBN catcher Kevin Geake fielded Jared Lortie’s sacrifice bunt and threw the ball away at first base.
That was the only number the visitors could put up against Roche. He worked out of a potential jam in the third, when he picked Charlie Kalil off first base, and after a subsequent single by Sam Sheikh the Spartan ace only faced three batters above the minimum the rest of the game.
North cleanup hitter N.J. Gott singled and stole second to trigger the fourth inning rally. Grimm’s bad toss to first, one out later, allowed Ethan Bass to trade places with Gott, and he scored the go-ahead run with two outs as pitcher Roche helped his own cause with a sharp RBI single up the middle.
Liss lost his control briefly in the fifth to account for GBN’s insurance run. He issued a four-pitch walk to Geake, hit the next batter and tossed a wild pitch to set up another score. ETHS center fielder Addison Blough robbed Gott of a potential extra-base hit with a running catch in deep left center, but it stood as a run-scoring sacrifice fly.