In the years before the Illinois High School Association decided to install a pitch limit for teenage baseball hurlers, Joe Snapp might have been working on a complete game shutout Monday against Maine West.
Instead, the Evanston right-hander combined with three teammates for a rare four-pitcher shutout effort as the Wildkits earned their first Central Suburban League victory with an 8-0 blanking of Maine West.
ETHS head coach Frank Consiglio doesn’t agree with the new rule, and there is no data yet — only guesswork — to substantiate the idea that pitch counts should be limited to prevent arm injuries for young pitchers. But like every other high school coach dealing with the new “guidelines”, Consiglio’s making the best of the situation.
It helps that the veteran coach probably has the deepest pitching staff he’s ever had in his 10 seasons at ETHS. On Monday, the foursome of Snapp, Will Peterson, Charlie Kihm and Will Lucas hurled a 5-hitter and teamed up to strike out 10 Warriors.
Consiglio has always taken pride in the organization and weekly preparation in the Wildkit program and has always had a depth chart available before games, listing what pitchers are “available” for any given game.
The fact that the new IHSA rules say that no one can throw more than 105 pitches without taking the next four days off — with similar restrictions when pitch counts are lower — hasn’t impacted the Wildkits much this spring as they improved to 11-6 overall and 1-1 in league play.
But Consiglio always keeps an eye on pitch counts and was happy to free up Snapp for future use since the Kits have games scheduled every day up to Saturday of this week.
Snapp only required 54 pitches to pick up the win Monday in his 5-inning stint.
“We took him out so he could stay under 60 pitches,” Consiglio pointed out. “Now he can still come back Thursday for us (against New Trier at Northwestern University) to possibly close out that game. It’s rare when you get a four-pitcher shutout like today, and how often do you see all four guys in one game dominate like that? That’s the sign of a good team when you can do something like that. The way they all attacked the hitters was fun to watch.
“You have to be on point all the time and look at every aspect of what can happen. You still don’t know if a guy will come out and only last one inning, or have a game like Joe had today. It’s challenging and we plan throughout the week. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants, you have to have a plan.
“In some ways I enjoy this challenge, but I also don’t know if the rules are doing what they’re meant to do. You try to take a positive out of everything and it’s good to get the opportunity to see what they can all do. My initial reaction was just to hope that we’d get a big enough number (of pitches per week) to work with, and then we’d adjust. Working within the system like that keeps us sharp.
“But what about the programs that only have about 20-25 kids out for baseball? The real issue we have is the historic problem of getting kids to come out for baseball. I’m afraid the overall numbers will come down because of a rule like this. And the biggest challenge is still in the summer because that’s where kids ‘over-pitch’ the most.”
Starter Snapp only faced 2 hitters above the minimum before turning things over to the bullpen Monday. He struck out 6 and also started a double play in the fifth inning to help his own cause.
On offense, the bottom part of the ETHS order did much of the damage against Maine West righty Sam Kindle. Ironically, Kindle went the distance and surrendered 8 hits for the Warriors, now 5-9 overall.
Jake Snider and Matt Reynolds — the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters for the Kits — each drove in a pair of runs, and No. 7 hitter Alex Moore was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Designated hitter Chris Brown added two hits and a sacrifice fly for the winners.
Evanston capitalized on a defensive mistake by the visitors for a 5-run inning in the second. A walk to Jesse Heuer and singles by Brown and Joe Epler produced the first run, but with the burly Brown on third and Epler on first, Maine West shortstop Matt Johnston thought he could nail Brown at the plate despite the fact that Moore’s bouncer would have produced an almost certain double play.
Instead, Johnston’s throw home went wide and no one was retired. Snider followed with a run-scoring single, Reynolds added a sacrifice fly, and B.J. Johnson’s RBI single ran the count to 5-0 in Evanston’s favor.
Moore scored in the fourth on a single, stolen base, passed ball and sacrifice fly from Snider. Both Snider and Reynolds single in the sixth to account for the final tally.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.