Bullpen can't provide relief in 7-4 Wildkit loss
Owen Brooks became the first pitcher in Evanston baseball history to surrender a run BEFORE he’d even thrown his first pitch at the varsity level Tuesday afternoon.
That’s how most of the 2021 season opener went for the ETHS bullpen.
Brooks’ sixth inning balk with a runner on third base led to a 3-run uprising and enabled visiting Buffalo Grove to pull away for a sloppy 7-4 victory in the season debut for both teams.
A combination of nerves and rust from a long layoff after the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic was evident as Evanston’s bullpen faltered badly in relief of starter Briggs Bossert.
Evanston yielded 4 unearned runs after Bossert departed in the fifth, only to tie the game again in the home half of the frame on a solo home run by the No. 9 hitter in the batting order, senior Fred Eberhart.
But the bullpen still couldn’t offer any relief.
“We had a lot of nerves at the back end of the bullpen today. They just need to get some innings in and get some experience, so we can fix that,” said Evanston head coach Frank Consiglio. “But we just didn’t play Evanston baseball today.
“When Eberhart hit that home run, I thought that would be the turning point, but we just didn’t get any consistent pitching after we took Bossert out. We didn’t even see many competitive pitches out of them. It’s a lack of experience, and a lack of mental toughness, but we’ll get that worked out.”
Buffalo Grove mustered only 4 hits --- 3 singles and a double --- but the Wildkits committed 5 errors, along with 3 wild pitches and Brooks’ balk that all produced runs for the visitors.
Consiglio tried 3 relievers after starter Bossert’s pitch count mounted and he was yanked after issuing back-to-back walks to Luc Rotondo and Connor Thiessen with 1 out in the 5th.
Danny Sheikh’s relief appearance lasted just 2 pitches --- a hit batter and a wild pitch to push across a run --- and Izzy Flood, the next hurler, suffered an extended inning as errors by Eberhart and catcher Brandon Brokowski allowed the Bison to pull ahead 4-3 before cleanup hitter Matt Wolverton finally lined into an inning-ending double play.
Eberthart’s 4-bagger off the top of the Blue Monster wall in left gave Evanston new life, but Flood couldn’t close the door in the Buffalo Grove 6th. He issued consecutive walks and turned things over to Brooks, who did recover from his own shaky start to retire 6 of the 8 batters he faced.
Bossert struck out 4 and walked 2 in his mound stint. “We probably would have left him in longer if this was later in the season, because I thought he was a big-time bright spot for us out there today. I was very happy with the way he pitched,” said Consiglio.