Dylan Mulvihill’s almost all the way back from the elbow problem he had that put the Evanston pitcher on the shelf last spring.
That was the best thing any Wildkit baseball fan could take away from Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to arch-rival New Trier in the Central Suburban League South division opener for both teams.
Mulvihill did surrender a 3-run home run to New Trier’s Kevin Donahue with 2 outs in the 6th inning, the game-winning hit in Mulvihill’s duel with Trevian ace Ben Brecht. But the ETHS right-hander pitched 6 full innings — his longest mound stint since his sophomore season — and threw 80 pitches without any after-effects physically.
All told, the senior hurler allowed 5 hits and struck out 4, but couldn’t prevent the Wildkits (9-6 overall, 1-3 CSL South) from suffering their fourth defeat in the last five games. New Trier improved to 8-3. The two rivals meet again Thursday at Northwestern University’s Rocky Miller Park.
One of the biggest issues confronting head coach Frank Consiglio — who missed Tuesday’s game after being ejected from a Monday loss at Maine West — and assistant coach Joe Knudsen is the fact that they’ve had to use three pitchers per game this spring. It’s difficult to win with a pitching-by-committee staff setup at any level, and almost no high school program is that deep on the mound.
Tuesday, Mulvihill took a big step toward becoming the staff ace — and a possible workhorse the Kits can count on to go deep into any game he starts.
“I think we’ll see Dylan pitching like an ace going forward,” said Knudsen, a former pitcher himself. “He’s still one of the top pitchers in the area, a guy that we expect to win every time out. I thought he threw well today. He mixed things up out there. He’s not at 90 miles-per-hour like he hit in the summer, but he’s at about 85 and I know he’ll gain velocity over the next month.”
The 6-foot-5 Mulvihill dropped 15 pounds during a physically grueling basketball season and the ETHS staff made sure they’d ease him back into shape with a plan that only had him pitching 2 or 3 innings per appearance early in the season.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now, except for the fact that we lost,” said the senior pitcher. “My body’s feeling good and I feel like I’m going down the right path. I’m excited to be back out there and playing like I know I can. I know these guys are counting on me this year and I’m ready to be a workhorse for the team.
“No, my velocity is not where it was last summer, but there’s no need to rush the process. I know it will come.”
With a couple of major league scouts in attendance to follow Brecht, who has touched 90 on most radar guns, the matchup of two aces was a plus to the perennial rivalry. Both players are headed to Division I porgrams in college, as Mulvihill has already committed to Penn and Brecht will play at Cal-Santa Barbara unless he’s drafted in an early round of the major league draft in June .
Brecht fanned 8 of the first 9 batters he faced in Evanston’s lineup and set down 11 in a row before Charlie Maxwell hit an opposite field single and stole second base with two outs in the fourth. The next hitter, Tyler McHolland, bounced to second to end the inning.
An error and a wild spell for Brecht gave the hosts an opportunity to take the lead in the fifth against the hard-throwing lefty. Chris Brown reached on an error and Jesse Heuer and Jay Wilson both drew walks to fill the bases with two out. But Brecht reached back and retired Ben Wilson on a popup to shortstop in short left field to end the threat.
Brecht turned things over to the bullpen after that and picked up the win despite some nervous moments for the Trevians. Reliever Pete Schuldt issued two walks and hit Drew Martinson to load the bases with no outs, and submarine specialist Jack Falk plunked Heuer with a pitch to force across a run.
The threat died right there, as Jay Wilson went down swinging, Ben Wilson also struck out, and Adam Geibel grounded out to end the game.
Ground ball singles by New Trier’s Dylan McGuire and Matt Kann put Mulvihill in danger starting the sixth. He almost worked out of the jam, retiring the next two hitters, before Donahue socked a first-pitch fastball over the Blue Monster Wall in left field.
Ironically, Mulvihill had worked ahead of most of New Trier’s hitters in the count up until that point, a strategy that backfired when Donahue teed off.
“I have to do a better job of mixing in my curve early in the count, because if I’d done that today he (Donahue) might not have been ready for the fastball,” Mulvihill said. “I always try to get ahead of every hitter because once you do that, their batting average really drops. I just needed to mix up more of my off-speed stuff the whole game.”
“That kid really jumped on that first pitch,” Knudsen agreed. “He was looking for it, and he got it. But we always want Dylan to attack and attack hitters like he did today.
“We battled, we stuck in there and competed today, but at the end of the day it’s not about competing, it’s about winning. It came down to which team would get the big hit, and they did it.”