Evanston’s softball team erupted for 25 hits and 15 stolen bases Saturday in a doubleheader sweep of visiting Regina Dominican.
And you can count Emma Maxwell among those Wildkits who have embraced the attack-first offensive mentality taught by new head coach Luella Gesky.
Maxwell, a junior first baseman, went 5-for-6 with 8 runs-batted-in and scored 6 runs herself to lead Evanston past the Panthers by scores of 14-8 and 14-4. That effort presented Gesky with her first wins as a head coach following a season-opening loss to Palatine as ETHS improved to 2-1 overall entering the start of Central Suburban League crossover play next week against Deerfield and Niles North.
The list of firsts Saturday also included the first varsity victories for pitchers Jessica Garcia and Zoe Kurtzer, whose solid work in the circle was overshadowed by all that offense.
“That’s the kind of offense we want, a high-powered offense like we saw today. That was beautiful!” exclaimed an excited Gesky. “I was really impressed by the way we were able to string together the little hits, too, and by the way we put pressure on their defense.
“I also liked how loose we played as a team. We didn’t freak out when things went against us, we just went out and kept fighting. That was fun to see.”
The ETHS coach also had fun watching Maxwell at the plate.
“Her goal this year was to become more of an offensive force, more of a power hitter,” Gesky said. “That’s definitely what we saw from her today. She’s a thoughtful hitter, a cerebral hitter if you will, because she’s always thinking about what she needs to do with the next pitch in her at-bat. She calls herself a nerd because she’s always thinking out there.”
Give a “nerd” something to study and you’ll get results, if you ask Maxwell.
“I really have to give the credit to our new coaching staff,” said the junior cleanup hitter, citing the input of Gesky and new assistant coaches Mike McGovern and Raven Gengler. “They’re so fantastic. They videotaped our swings all winter and they’ve given us great feedback.
“It’s also confidence, because my teammates support me all the time. Instead of pressure, all the returning varsity players see this as a chance to step up, and everyone has embraced that. This is my third year on the varsity and that experience with the mental aspect of hitting. I’ve finally settled in and now I know what I need to do to help the team.”
Maxwell rapped doubles in her first two trips to the plate in Game 1 as ETHS built a 7-2 lead. But the Panthers actually rallied to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the fourth inning, raking Garcia for nine hits in a three-inning stretch.
The hosts, however, responded with four runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth, as Maxwell added a pair of RBI singles and Cate Rudy provided the go-ahead runs with a two-run single. Maddy Managlia went 3-for-5 and Allie Nortz added two hits, two walks and four runs scored as the winners totaled 15 hits versus two Regina pitchers.
Garcia retired 10 of the last 12 batters she faced and finished with 6 strikeouts in a distance performance.
After walking and being hit by a pitch in her first two trips to the plate in Game 2, Maxwell belted a two-run triple and scored herself on a relay error in the fourth as part of a four-run ETHS outburst. Teammate Gina Hopf finished off the slaughter rule win in the sixth when her line single chased home Maxwell and Allie Nortz.
Alana Alanguilan went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and three stolen bases in the nightcap, part of a 10-hit ETHS attack.
Kurtzer was touched for three runs on four hits in the first inning, but yielded only one unearned run after that.
“Zoe changed her approach after that first game against Palatine,” Gesky pointed out. “Once I told her that to me, walks are worse than hits, it changed her approach. In that first game she tried to stay away from all of the hitters. Today she picked her spots a lot better. She works really hard, and she wants to be a great pitcher.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information