Jake Snider insists he knew the Class of 2018 would accomplish something special the minute he walked through the doors to Evanston Township High School four years ago.
The senior outfielder made sure his class did just that on a sunny Wednesday afternoon against baseball rival New Trier.
Snider contributed a key run-scoring single as the Wildkits --- trailing 1-0 with just 3 outs to go --- rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh inning and handed the Trevians a 4-1 defeat in the completion of a suspended game that started Monday at Northwestern University.
New Trier won the second (scheduled) game of the doubleheader by a 5-0 margin, and that left the two rivals each with a share of the Central Suburban League South division championship. ETHS, now 20-9-1 overall, tied the Trevs with identical 11-5 conference records and earned a share of the title for the first time since 2015, when they finished in a 3-way tie with New Trier and Glenbrook South.
Evanston last won the title outright back in 1990 --- before any of the current players were even born.
“When I looked at our class from the first day of school, I hoped we could do something special,” Snider said following a 3-for-4 performance in the Game 1 win. “In that last inning we had one more chance, down 1-0, and we showed the resilience and the stamina this team really has."
“I didn’t doubt us a bit. I had complete confidence in every single guy in that dugout and I knew at the very least we’d send it to extra innings. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I got here. We just had to play every single out, every pitch as hard as we could. It is kinda bittersweet to share it with New Trier, but the upside going forward now is that we KNOW we can play with them and we know we can beat them. In my mind, our potential is endless.”
The two teams could meet again in the semifinals of the Class 4A Loyola Academy sectional tournament, which opens with regional tourney play next week.
“You never want to share a championship,” admitted ETHS head coach Frank Consiglio, “but in order to win the conference, every year you have to go through New Trier and it’s really a challenge to go through them. The 16-game (conference) season is really a grind and I’m really proud of these guys. Winning the CSL South is always tough.
“When I first came to Evanston we just wanted to be able to compete. Now our mindset is different --- we’re trying to win the conference every year --- and I really like that that’s what we want to accomplish. It’s very, very satisfying.”
ETHS senior Joe Epler and New Trier right-hander Andrew Kost dueled each other to a scoreless tie at Rocky Miller Park Monday before the rains came in the top of the sixth inning (New Trier was the home team) and delayed the completion of the first scheduled matchup between the two rivals.
Wet weather and wet fields at both schools pushed the game back to Wednesday and led to an unusual pitching choice for Consiglio. He opted to use closer Jay Moore for the restart, but with two outs the usually reliable senior allowed a single to New Trier slugger Anthony Calarco and then issued three consecutive walks to force a run across.
And when Evanston did rally to regain the lead, Consiglio put the hammer down on the Trevians and called on Haack --- the ace pitcher scheduled to start the second game --- to wrap up the Game 1 win.
Haack did just that, picking up his first save of the season by striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced.
“I went to Henry because I knew he’d attack their hitters and put the game on ice,” said Consiglio. “I learned a long time ago that when have a chance to put a team away, you go with your absolute best guy. He’s been in big moments more than Jay has, and the bottom line is that I trusted Henry to put it away in a big situation --- and that’s just what he did.”
Haack, after about 10 minutes rest between games, did allow unearned runs in the third and fourth innings of Game 2 as his season mound record dropped to 6-2.
“I do have some mixed emotions, because winning it outright would have been nice,” said the senior hurler. “But I’m happy about it, and it will give a lot of our guys confidence going forward now.
“I have pitched relief a couple of times this year and I’m not uncomfortable doing it. Coach did tell me yesterday that there was a chance I might come in, but resetting like that (for the Game 2 start) was a challenge because that’s something I never had to do before. I felt OK and we probably could have won that second game if I hadn’t left a couple of pitches up.”
Evanston’s share of the crown was secured when the New Trier defense rested in the seventh. The Trevian collapse included a balk, two errors and singles by Fletcher Brown and Snider along with a walk.
Epler started the game-winning rally when he reached on the shortstop’s error. Brown’s single chased Trevian reliever Joe Bullard, and with one out Trev hurler John Robinson walked Chris Wolfe on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
And before he threw a pitch to the next ETHS batter, Matt Barbato, Robinson committed a balk that allowed pinch-runner Adrian Wilburn to stroll home with the tying run. Barbato then smacked a hard grounder that first baseman Calarco grabbed, but his throw to the plate was too late to make a play on another pinch-runner, Ben Baker-Katz.
Robinson gave the winners another gift with a wild pickoff throw to first base that produced a run, and Snider capped the rally with an RBI single to left.
Snider, installed in the leadoff spot in the ETHS batting order three weeks ago, went for 0-2 with a couple of walks in the second game and has lifted his season batting average to .338 while also leading the squad in runs scored.
He started the spring slowly on offense but has come around with warmer weather --- at least it’s not see-your-breath cold --- arriving once the calendar turned to May.
“I batted all over in the batting order and that didn’t help,” he said. “I just realized that it’s May and it’s time for me to flip the switch, to get on base for all of the great hitters I have behind me. I put in a lot of extra work and I’m just trying to hit the ball hard every time up. I’m just trying to get on base for the others, and I’ve become a lot more comfortable now in the leadoff spot.”
In the nightcap Wednesday, New Trier pitchers Drew Gorski and Calarco combined for 14 strikeouts. Starter Gorski pitched 6 scoreless innings and racked up 12 Ks, including 9 on called third strikes. Two of Evanston’s six hits were of the infield variety.