Evanston’s baseball team accomplished more than just advancing in the one (loss)-and-done Illinois High School Association state playoffs with its 11-1 trouncing of Niles North on Wednesday at the Class 4A Evanston Regional tournament.

The Wildkits wrote their names in the school record book, too.

The ETHS Wildkits watch from the dugout as Niles North tries for some offense on Wednesday, May 24. Credit: @Vikings219 Twitter

The current squad broke the single season record for victories and improved to 29-7 as junior pitchers Eron Vega and Noah Cryns combined for a three-hitter and eliminated the Vikings.

Top-seeded Evanston will play the Von Steuben-Elk Grove Village winner for the regional title on Saturday at 11 a.m. Winner of that game will advance to the Evanston Sectional next week.

The Wildkits surpassed the 2015 squad that finished with a 28-8-1 mark. Now they have designs on an extended run in post-season play. “To win 29 games, when you look at our conference and the schedule we play, that’s unbelievable,” said Evanston head coach Frank Consiglio, who also coached that 2015 team.

“I’m so proud of them. They’ll be remembered now, no matter what, for how classy they are and for the impact they’ve made on our program. “It’s a big deal to get that record-breaking win. They’ll go down as the winningest team in Evanston history now. All 16 of the seniors have played together in the EBSA [Evanston Baseball/Softball Association] all the way through. Twenty-nine wins is a great year, and now they have to back it up in the playoffs. That’s the real key, and now we’ve got a heckuva opportunity to get to 30 wins.”

Vega picked to open

For the second year in a row, Consiglio turned to Vega – and not ace Hank Liss – in the tournament opener. And for the second year in a row, Vega didn’t disappoint. The right-hander improved to 5-1 on the season, retiring 10 Niles North hitters in a row after yielding a run in the first inning. He fanned nine in his five-inning stint before Cryns mopped up with a 1-2-3 6th.

“I’ve got a lot of talent,” said Consiglio, when asked if it was a gamble not to start the hard-throwing Liss on the mound. “And over the last few weeks, I think Eron Vega has been our best pitcher. He has great command out there, he works the edges so well, he keeps everything down and he’s a great competitor. He deserved to get this start and show what he can do in the playoffs.

“I believe in a lot of guys on this team. It was his turn today, and he dominated. Except for those back-to-back hits, he basically didn’t get touched today.”

“Getting 29 wins gives us a lot of confidence. When we got to the point where we noticed we had a shot at it, that’s when we started to fight for it,” Vega explained.

“But we’re not worried about the number of wins. Our goal has always been to get Downstate, and that’s still the goal. We’re going to do everything we can to get down there. The coaches showed me love; they showed me trust by letting me start today. Last year I was in the same spot. It means a lot when the coaches trust you enough to go out there and dominate.”

That’s just what Vega did. He was touched for a run with two outs in the top of the 1st inning when losing pitcher Vinnie Marvucic doubled to right center, and Kelsey Howard singled up the middle to produce what turned out to be the last run of the season for the Vikings.

North did load the bases with a walk and a two-out error in the 5th, but Vega retired the last hitter he faced, Matt Trimberger, on a force out at second base to put out that fire.

Niles North, the No. 17 sectional seed, finished with a dismal 5-28 won-loss record.
On offense, the Wildkits scored in every inning but the 2nd and every single starter reached base at least once.

Liss ripped a solo home run to left center to chase Marvucic leading off the 5th, and the hosts put the 10-run slaughter rule into effect on Braden Grimm’s second RBI single of the game and singles by Charlie Kalil, Jonah Hofeld and Sam Sheikh in the 6th.
Evanston totaled 12 hits on the day. Liss also contributed an RBI single in his first at-bat.

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