There are a couple of ways for any high school baseball team to work itself out of a slump.
One is to shake up the batting order, and another is for your starting pitcher to throw a shutout.
Evanston used both approaches Monday and ended a two-game losing skid with a 5-0 victory over Maine West in a Central Suburban League crossover contest in Des Plaines.
Inserted into the designated hitter slot in the No. 2 hole, junior James Allen went 2-for-4 with a single, double, run scored and run-batted-in to spark an offense that was dormant the previous two games.
And winning pitcher Dylan Mulvihill pitched a 3-hitter, striking out 8 over 6 and two-thirds innings in his most dominant performance on the mound to date while recording his third win of the spring.
Evanston improved to 11-4-1 overall entering a home and home matchup with Glenbrook South to open CSL South division play this week. The Wildkits, 2-1 in the CSL, are at GBS Tuesday.
Evanston’s offense finally got untracked the second time through the batting order against Maine West right-hander Junior Torio. And it was Allen who was the catalyst, proving that the junior hasn’t forgotten how to swing a bat even as he’s focused on his primary contribution as the ace of the ETHS pitching staff as a starter and reliever.
Allen was a middle-of-the-order hitter last year for Evanston’s sophomore team, playing third base and pitching, but has only had a handful of at-bats this spring. When he’s started on the mound this year, head coach Frank Consiglio has used the designated hitter for HIM.
“I came in for some (batting practice) hitting this morning and I guess Coach Consiglio thought I had a good set,” Allen said. “He knows I’m a hitter also, not just a pitcher, and I think he had a feeling about me today. And I’m confident in my own ability. I knew I’m not going to get a lot of chances to hit, and I just tried to clear my mind and not over-think today, because sometimes I think too much. I just tried to swing the bat.”
Allen looked at a third strike his first time up, then reached base three times in a row, the last time on an error.
“It was really nice the way those two things (Allen’s addition to the lineup and sophomore Mulvihill’s pitching) worked out for us today,” Consiglio said. “We’re starting to settle in on some things as far as our lineup goes. Guys who make in-game adjustments like James did today are the guys who’ll play for us and have some success, not the guys who repeat the same mistakes at-bat after at-bat.
“After that first at-bat, he made an adjustment and took the outside corner away from their pitcher. He had to get that pitcher out of his comfort level, and that’s what he did. We’re trying to find a mix of guys who are physically solid and also take an approach with a high baseball IQ.”
Allen’s leadoff double in the fourth inning and a two-out RBI single by Joe Franke got the Kits on the board, and they added two more in the fifth on singles by Sam Evans, Peter Downie and Allen, plus a Warriors’ throwing error.
Eli Otting greeted Maine West reliever Dan Johnston with a home run to right center to open the sixth, and pinch-runner Ben Drake scored later on a wild pitch to account for the final margin.
Mulvihill, meanwhile, allowed only two balls to be hit out of the infield. He stranded Maine West runners at third base in the second, third and fourth frames and would have gone the distance except for a walk and a two-out error in the seventh.
ETHS reliever Zach Anderson allowed a hit to the only batter he faced, Jake Riportella, but the shutout was preserved because lead runner Sean Russell was ruled out on an appeal play after missing third base.
“At the start of the game Dylan kept it at dead zeroes and gave our offense a shot to win it,” Consiglio praised. “He was dominating out there today. He’s still got to get stronger physically to get to the next level as a pitcher. But today he took more off his changeup and then came back with a dominating fastball.
“He’s turning into a pitcher who throws different speeds, and it’s not just his location now. He did a great job.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information