There was no way Oak Park-River Forest’s baseball team could break through for a run against Evanston pitcher Russell Snapp Saturday in the championship game of the Class 4A Niles West Sectional tournament.
So what did the Huskies do? They outlasted the senior right-hander.
Snapp hurled a 2-hit shutout for the first 10 innings in a brilliant finale to a brilliant career, before Oak Park broke through for four runs in the 11th inning against the ETHS bullpen and denied the Wildkits a second straight trip to the Elite Eight.
Oak Park’s 4-0 triumph knocked the top-seeded Kits out of the postseason picture and ended the winningest season in ETHS history at 28-8-1. The Huskies advanced to the Schaumburg Super-Sectional with a 31-7 mark despite being out-hit 8-5.
Bugged by the flu in the week leading up to the game, Snapp allowed only 2 hits — a bunt single by Ryan Fish in the first inning and a single by Andrew Hennings in the fifth. He faced the minimum number of batters over the last six innings he toiled, then departed when his pitch count reached 119 over 10 innings. Snapp struck out 3, walked 1 and picked 2 Huskies off first base.
Relievers Zach Anderson, Dylan Mulvihill and Drew Martinson combined to allow three hits, two hit batters, a wild pitch and a balk in the 11th frame with Anderson suffering the loss.
Disappointed to fall just short of the Elite Eight, Evanston head coach Frank Consiglio wasn’t about to second-guess his decision to yank Snapp and turn to the bullpen, even though he might have been tempted to stick with his starter.
By the 11th, Snapp was out of gas.
“What it really came down to was, if Russ could have stayed in, I’d have left him in,” Consiglio said. “But he was tired. He was done. And when they got to the next layer of our pitching, the advantage went back to Oak Park.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen him pitch. That (effort) caps off a wonderful career for him (school record 20 mound victories). The bigger the game, the better he is. He was extraordinary today. He did everything — and more — he could to help us win.”
Evanston squandered two early scoring opportunities against Huskies’ righty Hank Christie, who earned the win with 10 scoreless innings of his own. In the 11th, OPRF reliever Joe Cundari allowed a single by James Allen (3-for-5) and a double by Sam Evans (3-for-5) before slamming the door on Evanston’s season.
Evanston’s best chance to break through came in the second, when singles by Evans and Gill Hurtig and a walk to No. 9 hitter Ben Drake — after he fell behind 0-2 in the count — loaded the bases with two outs. But Christie reached back to strike out Ben Wilson on three pitches.
In the ETHS third, Allen singled with two outs and stole second, and designated hitter Tyler McHolland drew a walk. But the rally died when Evans flied to center field to end the inning.
The final opportunity to snatch a win came in the 9th, after Evans was nailed trying to stretch a single into a double leading off the inning. Mark Roth reached on an error, and with a 1-1 count on hitter Hurtig, Consiglio signaled for a hit-and-run play.
Hurtig crushed a line drive to right center — perhaps the hardest ball he’s hit all season — but center fielder Chris Atwood speared it and turned it into an inning-ending double play.
“We really didn’t have a good day at the plate today,” Consiglio said. “Their pitcher was really good at hitting his spots and he did a good job of staying away from our hitters. We had more opportunities than they did, but it got to the point where we couldn’t do anything against him. You need to get a key hit in a key situation, and we didn’t do it today.
“This is hard to take, because this is a team that will be remembered by the school and by the community, that’s for sure. We were one hit away from another super-sectional, and that hurts. When you get to this point (in the Illinois High School Associations state tournament) any of the teams are good enough to win it all, and we thought we could do it.
“This team accomplished so much this year. This group of guys has been so great, so special, and it’s not fun to have to say good-bye to them now.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information