Charlie Maxwell held his thumb and forefinger about one inch apart while describing the final play of the Class 4A Maine South Regional baseball tournament Monday.

That’s how close Maine South came to ousting No. 1 sectional seed Evanston.

Instead, shortstop Maxwell’s dive and lunge for a game-ending forceout with the bases loaded in the top of the 7th inning kept Evanston’s season alive as the Wildkits prevailed 2-1 and earned their second straight regional crown.

The defense delivered — after two errors in the inning — and the Kits advanced to the semifinals of the Niles West Sectional on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. They’ll take a 27-7-1 record into that matchup against a Fenwick team that eliminated New Trier 2-1 in 9 innings at the Von Steuben Regional.

Also advancing to the sectional were Oak Park-River Forest and Loyola Academy, which beat second-seed Notre Dame in 11 innings..

Clutch relief pitching by James Allen, in support of winning pitcher Russell Snapp, preserved the win. And it was actually a team effort by Allen and Maxwell on the last defensive stand, as the pitcher tipped a line drive off the end of the bat by pinch-hitter Jake Scarpelli. Maxwell made the play, and tagged the bag at second just ahead of Hawks’ baserunner Caleb deMarigny to end the game.

“I didn’t know I even got a piece of it until they told me I did, but to be honest, I thought Charlie would make the play anyway,” said Allen after earning his first save of the season. “All I know is last year I was in the same situation (blown save at the supersectional), so it’s good to get some redemption today.

“We’ve picked each other up all year and this year most of our wins have been team wins. That’s what we did again today.”

“James tipped it and slowed it down a little,” Maxwell said. “Then there was one hop up, and one hop down, and I just slid around and dove as quickly as I could. I got him — by this much.

“After Ben Drake misplayed that ball in right field, I got a little concerned. But I looked over at Mark (second baseman Mark Roth) and we both smiled at each other. We were confident. We’ve been here before. It’s just so crazy to end the game with a play like that. It’s so awesome, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The contest was resumed in the 3rd inning Monday after the two squads were rained out on Saturday. ETHS only mustered 1 hit against South right-hander Kyle Zajdel on Monday, but a run-scoring double by Allen in the first and an RBI single by Ben Wilson in the second on Saturday provided just enough offense for the winners.

Maine South bowed out with a 19-13 record after falling to the Kits for the third time this season.

“I thought we were in a good position to make that play at the end, but I also knew it could’ve gone either way,” said ETHS head coach Frank Consiglio. “I talk all the time about us being a team that bends but doesn’t break. That happens to us a lot. We make big plays.

“The moment is never too big for James Allen. He came in and threw nothing but strikes. You’re seeing a different pitcher than a couple of weeks ago, one who can come in and get outs with his secondary pitches.”

Starter Snapp struck out a season-high 11 in his 6-inning stint, but also issued 5 walks. He earned his 20th career victory, a school record, aided by Allen.

“After throwing 50 pitches on Saturday, Russell came back and just gutted it out today. He’s a starting pitcher who was really out of his routine having to come back like this, and it was just pure guts today. He did what he needed to do,” Consiglio praised. “His command was good and I thought his slider was fantastic.”

Snapp stranded 5 Hawks who reaching scoring position, surrendering the lone run in the fourth on a walk, a stolen base and an opposite field single by designated hitter Alec Munce.

Allen entered in the 7th and errors by third baseman Justin Farrow and Drake, plus an intentional walk, filled the bases with one out. Allen struck out Jarrett Gustafson on three pitches, the last one a nasty curve, to set up the game-ending heroics.

Source: ETHS Sports Information

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