Chris Brown turned his worst start of the season into something good Wednesday with one swing of his new bat.
What the senior right-hander couldn’t accomplish on the mound, he made up for with a dramatic 3-run home run in the top of the 6th inning that delivered Evanston’s 11th straight win. The Wildkits came from behind for a 10-9 triumph over Niles North in the Central Suburban League South division finale for both teams in Skokie.
Brown re-entered the game as a hitter after surviving just one inning on the mound, and drilled a 3-2 pitch from Niles North ace George Sherman over the left center field fence — through a 35 mile-per-hour wind that gusted out to right field and helped account for a combined four home runs on the day. Evanston, which trailed 9-5 after the first two innings, notched its 11th straight win and improved to 23-10 with what was the most improbable victory of the season.
Relievers Joe Snapp and Matt Anderson hurled 5 scoreless innings between them, with Anderson striking out the last two hitters he faced in the seventh to earn the save. On offense, Joe Epler went 4-for-4 and crushed a 3-run homer in the first inning, and No. 9 hitter Jake Snider contributed a single and a triple along with his first career homer.
Brown’s third home run of the season came with a new bat, one he tried in batting practice at the suggestion of assistant coach Joe Knudsen.
“I broke a bat I had since I was about 13 years old last year against Maine South, and (teammate) Matt Reynolds found me one that was the same model. But it was pretty used and beat up and it didn’t last,” Brown said. “I guess today was a pretty good day to break in a new one.
“That’s my biggest home run since I hit one in a 12B championship game playing for the Orange Cats to help us win it. And oh, yeah, I was thinking home run if I could get a 3-2 fastball from him, although at first I thought it would just hit the bottom of the fence.”
Brown was seeking his 7th mound win against no defeats but endured a rough first inning, allowing a couple of hits and then yielding five consecutive walks to wipe out what had been a 4-0 ETHS lead.
“I didn’t have any feel out there and it was my worst start of the year,” the senior said. “But you’ve got to stay strong because you’re not always going to do well every time out. I just wanted to get a W for my team, that’s what’s the most important thing.
“About the third inning Coach (Frank) Consiglio told me to be ready when there was a spot for me to hit. Then, when I got my shot, I had to make the most of it.”
The unpredictable win played a role when the Vikings expanded their lead against reliever Snapp in the second inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Sherman hit a sky-high fly ball to the right of the mound and neither pitcher Snapp nor first baseman Eppler could field it.
The next hitter, Viking junior Charlie O’Kane, made the Wildkits pay for that blunder with a 3-run wind-aided four-bagger to center field. Snapp shut the door after that, although he did allow four harmless singles, and picked up his fourth win of the season.
Two-out hits by Epler, Fletcher Brown and designated hitter Jake Urdangen produced a run for the visitors in the fifth. In the sixth, Snider homered to left to start what turned out to be a game-winning rally.
With one out, Adam Geibel singled and Jesse Heuer worked Sherman for a 5-pitch walk. Brown’s blast delivered Evanston’s 13th conference win against 3 losses this year, and only South division champion New Trier won more games than the Kits on either side of the Central Suburban League.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.