Evanston’s need to replace the five pitchers who graduated last spring was apparent right from the start to head baseball coach Frank Consiglio.
And when Consiglio approached senior Chris Wolfe on the team’s spring trip to Florida with the suggestion that he resume his pitching career, Wolfe was happy to oblige.
Evanston’s search for a third starter to back up Cam Mulvihill and Noah Leib might be over, if Wednesday’s 16-0 victory over Maine East in Central Suburban League play is any indication of Wolfe’s potential on the mound.
The right-hander struck out 9 and allowed only 2 hits in 5 innings in the slaughter rule win as the Wildkits got back on the winning track after back-to-back shutout losses. Evanston (7-9 overall) scored 1 run in the first inning, 2 in the second, 5 in the third and 8 in the 4th while stroking 10 hits.
Wolfe scored his first varsity mound win — and could be on track for more as the “Saturday starter” the second half of the season, a designation that could include important starts against CSL foes Glenbrook North (April 27), Maine West (May 4) and Highland Park (May 11).
Wolfe’s performance Wednesday didn’t come against tough competition, but quality starts like this one will certainly earn the senior more looks on the mound when he isn’t starting in the outfield.
And he was probably the only one in the ballpark for Evanston’s second home game of the season who hoped the contest would last a full 7 innings instead of being shortened to 5.
“I started out (as a youngster) as a catcher, but pitching was my secondary position and I love pitching,” Wolfe said. “As I grew, catching really became my primary position. As an athlete, you just want to do as much on the field as you can to help your team.
“Last year when we struggled, our arms kept us in a lot of games. Coach came to me on the Florida trip and asked me how I felt about getting back to pitching this year, and I said of course, I’ll do it. I was happy to. Getting back to it has been awesome for me.”
Wolfe earned a no-decision in his previous start against Lake Forest and showed he hasn’t lost his moxie on the mound against the Blue Demons (1-8) on Wednesday. He allowed only singles by Ashton Schwab and Mason Ishii and didn’t walk a batter while fanning 9. Maine East had one other baserunner, via an error, as Wolfe mowed down the last 7 hitters he faced in order.
“Today I just worked on hitting my spots, and not giving in on some counts like I did early in the game,” he added. “I used my 2-seam fastball and my cutter and I was able to get movement both ways (in and out). That was my game plan, to throw strikes and see if I could hit the edges (of the plate).”
Offensively, the Kits showed signs of life and cut their number of strikeouts (12 in each of the past 2 losses) in half Wednesday. Four of their hits were of the infield variety and better contact at the plate also paid off in the form of three errors by the losers.
“We definitely need to get into a rhythm with our bats, and having a game like this is super-helpful,” said Wolfe, who went 1-for-3 and scored a run. “As a team we need to put the ball in play more.”
Leib went 3-for-3 with 2 runs-batted-in and Sawyer Brown contributed a pair of singles and two RBI. The Wildkits bunched 6 hits for 8 runs against a quality left-hander in Maine East’s Schwab, who departed after throwing 86 pitches in those 3 frames.