Fletcher Brown has caught almost every inning of every game for Evanston’s baseball team this spring and has worked with all 11 pitchers on the Wildkit staff.
The junior receiver still has a lot to learn. But his progress behind the plate was evident Saturday as he helped the Kits score their 9th consecutive victory at Deerfield.
Evanston scored a 10-8 triumph in 8 innings in a battle of the bullpens, improving to 21-10 overall and 11-3 in Central Suburban League South division play.
At least mathematically, the win kept ETHS alive in a bid to tie for the conference title, although front-running New Trier has a two-game advantage with only two games to play for both contenders.
Brown’s ability to cajole the bullpen to a marathon win showed that the junior’s leadership is something Evanston can count on for the stretch run. The Wildkits pushed across a pair of unearned runs in the top of the 8th, and winning pitcher Joe Snapp made the pitches he needed to make in the bottom half of the frame to pick up the victory.
The fact that Evanston’s first reliever, Matt Anderson, blew a 5-run lead and that Snapp surrendered what was an 8-7 edge in the 7th wasn’t lost on head coach Frank Consiglio and left the ETHS boss with mixed emotions following the win.
Strangely, one of the highlights for the winners was the numerous trips Brown made to the mound to make sure he was always on the same page with senior hurlers Anderson and Snapp.
“It’s a win, and I feel good about that, but I won’t leave here really feeling good,” said Consiglio after his team also committed 6 errors. “To me, one of the highlights was the way Fletcher Brown controlled the game today. Every time he went out to the mound that was on him, not the coaching staff (telling him to make visits). He caught all of those pitches on a day when there was no rhythm with the home plate umpire and didn’t have a single passed ball. If he doesn’t perform to that level, we don’t win this game.
“I’m harder on the kids who play that position than any of the others and I’m bark, bark, barking at him every single day in practice. He really works hard to get better. He does call some of the pitches — along with the coaches on the bench — and I like a lot of what I saw from him today.”
“That was so stressful today,” Brown admitted. “It was good to get the win because we don’t want to break our momentum now.
“It’s getting close to playoff time right now and I think I’m more locked in behind the plate than I was earlier in the season. We’re starting to see everything tighten up more, I think. A lot of those trips I made today were about making sure we got the signs right, and calming guys down.
“I’ve wanted to play varsity baseball at Evanston since I was 9 or 10 years old, and I like the way the coaches push me here because I can see that it makes me a better player. Coach Consiglio has been hard on me and I think that’s good. He told me at the start of the year that he wanted me to have relationships with pitchers 1 through 15, or however many pitchers we have.”
After Deerfield (10-19) chased Anderson by scoring 5 runs with two outs in the fourth, Brown smacked an RBI single through the left side of the infield to help the visitors regain the lead at 8-7.
Snapp breezed through the fifth and sixth, but in the seventh he ran into trouble. With one out Aaron DeLisle hit a single on an 0-2 pitch, and Snapp threw wildly to second on what could have been a game-ending double play to keep the rally alive.
The ETHS right-hander then issued consecutive walks to force in the tying run before wriggling off the hook, striking out Jon Dawson looking and getting Matt Rosenbaum to bounce into a forceout.
In the Evanston 8th a walk to B.J. Johnson, Adam Geibel’s third hit of the game, an error and a wild pitch boosted the visitors back into the lead. But the Warriors did send the tying run to the plate against Snapp, who managed to quell the threat by retiring the last three hitters.
“He was great for the first couple of innings, then in a high leverage situation he got a tailor made ground ball and doesn’t make the play,” Consiglio pointed out. “And then he didn’t reset himself after that happened. He really competed out there, but it shouldn’t have turned out the way it did. He was so good in those first two innings and that’s the Joe Snapp I want to see.”
Geibel drove in three runs with two singles and a double for the winners, and starting pitcher Joe Epler went 2-for-4 with a couple of doubles and an RBI. Senior Oliver Baldwin-Edwards came off the bench and went 2-for-4 with a couple of infield hits.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.