MGuire powers Kits to 5th straight win in rivalry
Now that the New Trier-Evanston softball rivalry has turned lopsided in another direction, Madison McGuire still believes it’s special.
That’s why the Wildkits’ senior captain thought it was a good idea to bring back some throwback jerseys from the early days (circa 1970s-80s) for the first matchup of the 2021 season.
McGuire did her best to make sure that the outcome didn’t revert back to the days when the Trevians dominated the head-to-head rivalry --- usually by the 10-run slaughter rule. But Tuesday, McGuire went 2-for-4 with a double and triple and 2 runs-batted-in as the Wildkits defeated the Trevians for the fifth time in a row, this time by a 9-3 margin.
Doesn’t sound like much of a streak? Consider that before sweeping New Trier in the home-and-home series back in 2018, the Wildkits had only won a TOTAL of 3 times since fastpitch softball became an Illinois High School Association-sanctioned sport for girls in the mid 1970s.
McGuire’s 2-run triple into the right field corner helped the Kits capitalize on 5 New Trier errors in the bottom of the 5th inning as Evanston improved to 7-5 on the season.
New Trier’s program is now in an obvious decline after the Trevians dominated conference play for two decades. The visitors slipped to 5-12 on the season and the loss kept them winless in CSL South action.
But McGuire certainly appreciated the victory almost as much as she appreciated just being able to play again --- in any uniform --- after suffering what could have been a crippling injury earlier this spring.
McGuire suffered a corneal abrasion in her right eye when she was hit by a whiffle ball in a pre-game batting drill prior to the Maine West game. She missed an entire week of action before working her way back into the lineup last weekend against Grayslake Central.
“It definitely feels good to beat our rivals, and we still get excited about playing them,” said the senior first baseman. “It’s definitely a big deal and we wanted to keep that streak going against them. We don’t want to be the ones to see it end. That’s why I thought it would be fun for us to pull out these throwback jerseys against them.
“We had the jerseys in our shed, but because of some injuries and some ineligibilities we’ve brought some younger players up and we didn’t really have our core team until now. I just decided today was the day to bring those jerseys out.”
McGuire was able to bounce back from that freak injury that occurred in a drill where Wildkit players take turns whacking the whiffle balls (made of plastic) into a net to work on their timing at the plate.
“We were warming up at Maine West and my (unnamed) best friend hit a line drive into my right eye,” McGuire recalled in a matter-of-fact fashion. “I had blood pools behind my eye, and if it had started bleeding again, I could have gone blind. But I was on bed rest for about a week, and I’m coming back better than ever now.
“It was definitely scary. I should have been standing farther back, because I didn’t even have time to react. It was a bummer for me to be out that long because I just wanted to be back out on the field.”
“We’re lucky it healed pretty quickly, because it was a serious injury,” said ETHS head coach Amy Gonzales. “That was a timely, 2-out hit Maddie had for us today.
“We started bunting (leading to those 5 Trevian errors in a single inning) more because it felt like we just weren’t tracking the ball, we weren’t seeing the ball well at the plate, and I think that helps you do that as a hitter. Sometimes when you bunt it helps you see the ball longer. Maybe some of them don’t want to bunt, but if you get on, you get on, and it doesn’t matter how.”
Evanston finished with 10 hits Tuesday, including doubles by Chloe Haack (3-for-4) and winning pitcher Serafina Goodwill plus a 2-run homer by Katy Patton to provide insurance runs in the 6th. But it was the bunting game that caused the Trevians to buckle in the 5th and break open a pitching duel between Goodwill and New Trier’s Emilia Orta.
A two-out single by New Trier shortstop Leah Schneiderman boosted the visitors to a 1-0 lead in the top of the 5th, but that advantage didn’t last long. Haack reached on a 1-out error and came around to score on Kelsey Blickenstaff’s bunt single and a subsequent throwing error. Three straight errors, including a missed fly ball in left, sent the Kits ahead to stay and McGuire hammered a drive down the right field line that plated teammates Frances Heldt and Lucia Goldberg.
McGuire also scored on Eva Eiseman’s single up the middle before the inning finally ended. New Trier did muster single runs in the 6th and 7th against Goodwill (9 strikeouts), but Patton’s homer put an emphatic stamp on the rivalry win.
Gonzales said she’s looking forward to the second round of conference play and believes the Wildkits can be in the thick of the pennant chase despite losing to Niles West and Maine South the first time around.
“I think we’ve shown improvement over the last week or so, and we certainly hope we’ll be in it,” she said. “One thing that’s really been a big help has been (sophomore) Kelsey Blickenstaff’s play in the outfield. She’s done a very good job out there and that’s really helped our pitchers out.”