Seniors enjoy last hurrah at CSL all-star baseball game

Tommy Barbato pitched a grand total of 4 innings for Evanston’s baseball team this spring.

So the last thing Barbato expected for his last hurrah in an Evanston uniform was an appearance on the mound Monday night at the annual Central Suburban League North-South Senior all-star contest held at Oakton Community College.

When the South division ran out of pitching, Barbato stepped up and tossed a scoreless 7th inning to preserve a 2-2 tie against the best seniors in the CSL North. It marked only the second tie in the history of the series, which began back  in 1995.

Barbato and teammate Sawyer Brown went a combined 0-for-5 at the plate in a game that was dominated by pitching, as usual. The two sides combined for just 11 hits, 3 of the infield variety.

Two other Evanston players, all-conference pitcher Cameron Mulvihill and outfielder Chris Wolfe, were chosen for the all-star honor but chose not to participate in the game. The South division only dressed 11 players and ran out of pitchers after New Trier’s Andrew Kost and Joe Fox worked the first 6 innings on the mound.

Then it was Barbato’s turn.

“When Sawyer and I got here, we only had 9 other guys and I knew we didn’t have many arms (available),” said the senior right-hander. “The coach (Glenbrook South head coach Steve Stanicek) asked if there was anyone else who had thrown this year and I said I threw 5 or 6 innings. He just tossed me in there --- and I got the job done.”

Barbato retired the first two batters he faced, Maine West’s Jacob Cabral and Enrique Melendez, on infield grounders, then yielded singles to Deerfield’s Lucas Danielewicz and Tom Conzemius before inducing another grounder for the final forceout.

The end result --- a tie --- was an anti-climax for most of the players, including Barbato and Brown, who will attend Dartmouth and Virginia, respectively, but don’t plan to play sports there.

But it was payback of a sort for Barbato, after Maine West eliminated the Wildkits in the Class 4A regional tournament and ended his high school career.

“I really wanted to beat those Maine West kids. That last game (a 9-1 loss) will stay with me for a long time,” he said. “I haven’t thrown in quite awhile and I couldn’t find my control with my curve tonight. But my fastball felt fine.

“It’s fun for me whenever I get a chance to pitch. I feel like if I had worked on it in the off-season, I could have been one of our top guys, but that just wasn’t on my radar.”

Brown grounded out in all three of his plate appearances --- in the third, fourth and seventh --- and Barbato was retired on fly balls in the third and again in the fifth. The South scored its only runs on a two-out, two-run single by Niles West’s Brad Pawlow in the sixth.

The North scored in the fourth on an RBI single by Melendez and added an unearned run in the fifth, both scores coming against New Trier’s Fox.

“I really enjoyed being in the same dugout with people I’ve competed against for four years, or even longer than that,” Brown said. “We all have a lot in common and it was cool to talk to them.”

The irony of both seniors appearing in the baseball all-star game was that they both actually enjoyed more success in other sports. Barbato qualified for the IHSA state golf finals for the first time last fall, and finished 31st overall, while Brown was selected to the all-conference football squad after helping the Kits put together their best regular season since 1998.

Both players said they’d recommend playing more than one sport to anyone who asks.

“I’m so glad I played two sports,” Brown noted. “It gives you a good idea of how to provide leadership in two different worlds, and you’re able to keep busy physically and mentally all year.”

“Playing two sports gave me opportunities to take my mind off things that were going on that were stressful. I could go out to the driving range and hit some balls without it affecting my baseball,” Barbato explained. “Golf is a life sport, something you can do all the time.

“Baseball has more high intensity situations and it’s a lot more pressure. Between the two of them, I got a balance that was nice. I got a chance to be a leader during the baseball season --- you’re pretty much out there on your own in golf --- and I tried to show the way for the younger guys in the program going forward.”

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