SCOREBOARD WATCHING: BASEBALL
It was a win-win afternoon for Brian Kerwin.
Go ahead, call him the unofficial MVP of the Suburban Chicago Connie Mack Tournament.
Kerwin’s run-scoring single in the top of the 10th served as the game-winner, when the Wilmette Waves edged Palatine 10-9 in a semifinal game at Loyola Academy on July 15.
And then, less than an hour later, Kerwin cracked a three-run homer in a seven-run third inning to spark the Waves to a 13-3 victory over the Evanston Naturals in the championship game.
“Felt good off the bat,” said Kerwin of his home run. “And it was nice to do it against one of our big rivals.”
“That,” Waves teammate Donald Stricklin added, “was a missile.”
Kerwin, who will be a senior for New Trier, found himself in a hitting groove in the two-game set — stringing together four straight hits. After his game-winning single against Palatine, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder went 3-for-4 against the Nats.
His home run was sandwiched in between an infield hit in the first inning and a bloop single in the fourth inning.
“I haven’t had a bloop hit for a while,” said Kerwin. “It was nice to get that to fall in.”
Waves coach Mike Napoleon was not surprised by Kerwin’s burst of power.
“He’s a strong kid. Athletic,” said the coach. “He does a lot of nice things on the field.”
Wilmette’s other big bopper in the championship game was Aaron Stewart (class of 2020). The first baseman smacked a two-run homer in that seven-run frame.
“He hit over .300 this summer, and that was his third home run [of the summer],” said Napoleon.
Steward also added a two-run single in the sixth.
The Waves scored their 13 runs on 14 hits. Third baseman Patrick Jodloman opened the game with a run-scoring double in the first inning.
The team’s other top hitters were Kyle Caponi (2-for-4, 2 runs), Matthew Roth (2-4, triple, run-scoring single), Eddie Harvey (2-4, RBI, run), Payton Burch (1-3, run, stolen base) and Stricklin (RBI single, 2 runs).
Right-hander Andrew Kost picked up the win for Wilmette. He worked five innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs.
Kost was relieved in the bottom of the sixth by left-hander Henry Pelinski (0 runs, 2 hits, 2 strikeouts).
One of Wilmette’s unsung heroes was Stricklin. He caught all 16 innings and got on base six times in the twin bill.
Stricklin especially shined in the win over Palatine. His big at-bat was a one-out triple in the top of the eighth.
“At first, I thought it was going to be caught,” said Stricklin. “So I was in a light jog. Then, when I saw it drop in, I put on the turbos. Had to get to third.”
Stricklin also came up with a hustling play in the bottom of the ninth, when he backed up an errant throw and cut down Palatine’s Jack Hopper at second with a perfect toss to Waves’ shortstop Evan Hummel.
It was a textbook play — with a tad of luck.
“It [the overthrow] bounced off the side of the dugout, and I was able to grab it barehanded,” Stricklin recounted. “And then, I just threw a strike to second.”
Stricklin, who received the team’s Gold Glove, also proved his worth as a backstop in the bottom of the eighth inning, when he blocked a pitch in the dirt with runners on second and third and no outs.
As the ball trickled a few feet in front of home plate, Palatine’s Jake Moertl broke from third and raced home.
Stricklin was waiting for him.
Stricklin tagged out Moertl in a nasty collision at the plate.
Seconds later, Moertl was ejected from the game for not sliding and trying to barrel over the catcher.
“Stricklin is gutsy. He’s tough,” said Napoleon. “He did a great job today.”
There was drama throughout this 10-inning affair … especially in the 10th.
In the top of the frame, Wilmette’s James Robinson and Hummel reached on singles. And then, after two were out, Kerwin ripped a base hit to left and both runners scored as the Palatine left fielder allowed the ball go through his legs.
But, in the bottom of the inning, the two-run advantage became tenuous. Palatine cut the lead to one run on a run-scoring double and had the bases loaded with two outs.
The final out? A line shot … right into the glove of Wilmette center fielder Eddie Harvey.
The Waves scored their 10 runs on 15 hits. The leading hitters included Caponi (2 hits, RBI), Jodloman (2 hits, RBI), Harvey (2 hits, RBI), Stewart (RBI double), Robinson (2 hits, 2 runs) and Stricklin (2 hits, RBI).
Drew Gorski pitched six innings for the Waves. He gave up four runs on eight hits. He had 7 Ks.
The Waves finished the summer 21-8. The award winners, in addition to Stricklin, include Jeff Kost (General Manager’s Award), Pete Burnside (Most Valuable Player), Kost (Most Valuable Pitcher), Pelinski (Golden Bat) and Caponi (Coaches’ Award).
Loyola Academy/Highland Park
Loyola’s Connie Mack team, which finished 11-10 this summer, just missed advancing to the championship game of Suburban Chicago Connie Mack Tournament.
The host Ramblers, down 4-3 after four innings, wound up falling 4-3 to the Evanston Naturals in a semifinal game on July 15. They had the potential tying run on third, when the game ended.
Dan Hrvojevic capped a three-run fifth inning, when his single to left brought in Henry Haracz and Matthew Raymond. Aidan Dunham singled and also scored in the inning.
Haracz and Jacob Novak had doubles in the contest. Raymond had the team’s other RBI. Johnny Mejia and Patrick Daniels also had base hits.
Ben Wagner pitched two scoreless innings in relief of PJ McKermitt. Wagner had two strikeouts and gave up two singles.
In pool play action on July 13, Loyola topped Palatine 3-1 and fell to Highland Park 8-6. In the other game, Palatine topped HP 7-5. Thus, Palatine and LA advanced to the Final Four based on the runs allowed tiebreaker.
In that win over Palatine, Haracz and Collin Gillespie led the way. Haracz, who roamed center field, hit a leadoff home run, while Gillespie worked 6.2 innings to get the win.
“Haracz had some quality at-bats for us this summer,” said LA coach Nick Bridich. “He’s proven that he’s more than just a pitcher.”
LA’s offensive highlights in the loss to Highland Park included a two-run home run by Trey Torain in the third inning, a two-run double by Artie Collins in the first, an RBI single by Novak in first and inning-opening doubles by Haracz and Raymond.
Meanwhile, Highland Park put eight runs on the board thanks to the long ball. Luke Semrad lined a shot over the left-field fence in the second inning. And catcher Jack Kramer hit a three-run blast in the fifth inning. Kramer also had a single and a run-producing groundball.
Noah Shutan (single, 2 walks, 1 run) and Tyler Gussis (2 hits, 2 RBIs) also had productive outings for the Giants.
And Jack Greenwald was terrific in relief. He limited the damage in the fifth inning, when he came in with one out and the bases loaded. He ended up allowing no hits in 2.2 innings with six strikeouts.