Kits score 5th straight win as part of playoff push
Two-out hits can take you a long way in the state baseball tournament.
No wonder that, in Frank Consiglio’s mind at least, the push for the postseason has already begun for Evanston.
Evanston scored all of its runs Wednesday with 2 outs to complete a Central Suburban League South division sweep with a 5-1 victory over Niles West.
Timely hitting and shutdown pitching from starter Danny Sheikh and reliever Briggs Bossert boosted the Wildkits to their 5th win in a row. Now 14-6-1 overall, Evanston is rounding into the playoff form that Consiglio has sought every season when the calendar flips over to the month of May.
The fact that the season will be extended a couple of weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic adjustment in the schedule hasn’t changed the ETHS coach’s focus. He’ll always measure just how successful the season is by how deep the Kits can advance in postseason play.
“We played dominant baseball today,” Consiglio said. “What’s been missing for us has been a calculated attack at the plate, and on the mound, and that’s what we had today. I put a lot of stock in the way you play (as a team), not just if you win or lose, and the last 2 weeks or so I’ve really felt that we’re really approaching the games the right way.
“This is a winning formula. This is how you win in the playoffs.”
Sheikh allowed 1 run and 4 hits, striking out 8, in his second straight dominant start while Bossert retired 7 of the 8 batters he faced in relief. Sheikh has pitched his way out of the bullpen into serious consideration for a spot in the starting rotation when the one-and-done portion of the season gets underway in a couple of weeks.
His sharp-breaking curveball produced 6 straight strikeouts to start the game, setting the Wolves back on their heels. They did break through for a run in the third inning, on a triple by Johnny Raciti and a sacrifice fly, but after that the Wolves really didn’t threaten.
The senior right-hander has joined the Liss brothers, Hank and Joe, and Bossert as hurlers Consiglio can count on in a variety of roles.
Don’t forget that the veteran coach didn’t get to see any of his players in action last summer or last spring, when the seasons were wiped out by the pandemic, and so far the 2021 campaign has been a learning experience for the coaching staff as well as the players.
“I thought of Danny as a reliever at the start of the season,” Consiglio said, “but now I’ve figured out that he’s better as a starter. He’s only given up 1 run in the last 12 or 13 innings and he’s been highly effective for us as a starter. That’s because he’s a ‘feel’ guy (whose best pitches are off-speed) and as a starter, he’s really been executing a high percentage of his curves.
“When you come out of the bullpen, you can’t really ease into a game with that feel like you can as a starter. He’s absolutely in the mix now for a lot of innings going forward. Another guy we found who can start or relieve is Andy Vye, who has really been a pleasant surprise for us. All of them have stuff that will play in the playoffs.”
A steal of home by Joe Liss --- while pinch-runner Fred Eberhart purposely got picked off but kept the rundown alive until Liss crossed safely --- got the hosts on the scoreboard in the second.
Wilson Clarke’s infield hit and a walk to Hank Liss set the stage for what turned out to be the game-winning hit in the fourth, when catcher Brandon Brokowski pushed an RBI single through the right side. Bobby Black then hammered a 2-run double off the wall in left center to boost the advantage to 4-1.
Hank Liss stroked a run-scoring single after a walk and a West error to conclude the scoring in the 5th.