What goes around comes around, and unfortunately, the Wilmette Waves ended up on the wrong end of that cliche Wednesday night.
The Waves took advantage of errors to take a 3-2 lead, but the Waves’ own miscues in the final inning led to two runs and walk-off victory for the Evanston Naturals in the In the Illinois Summer Baseball League championship July 20 in Evanston.
“We were a little tight, but I can’t really put my finger on it,” Waves coach Mike Napoleon said of the final inning. “We made some crucial errors. … We had good pitching all game and can’t really fault anybody. It’s just unfortunate.”
Wilmette struck first when Aidan Nolan crossed home plate in the first, but Evanston scored the next two runs — one each in the first and second innings.
The Waves starter Noah Shepo held the Naturals from that point, while getting two more runs of support from his offense in the third inning. Caiden Carpenter, who doubled, and Aiden Nicholson, who walked, scored on an Evanston error to give the Waves the lead.
Wilmette reliever Quentin Erickson worked out of two straight jams in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Naturals again loaded the bases in the seventh framed and pushed home the winning runs on Wilmette errors.
“Our pitchers did a really good job and got out of some tough innings,” Napoleon said. “… The two pitchers against us did a nice job keeping us off stride.”
The Waves advanced to the championship game following an 11-6-1 record in the ISBL regular season. The second seed in the postseason tourney, Wilmette opened Wednesday with a 10-0 victory over Highland Park — led by the complete game of hurler Trevor Byrnes.
The win set up the championship matchup with top seed and defending league champ, Evanston.
Overall for the summer, the Wilmette Waves finished 24-16-1, adding 13 victories in weekend tournament play. The Waves are made up of baseball players from the New Trier High School program; however, some Trevians — like rising seniors and 2022 starters Brendan Stressler, Graham Mastros and Henry Wolfe — choose to play for other travel clubs, such as Top Tier and Rake City. Next summer, Napoleon said, he may change team rules and allow players to compete for multiple clubs.
The Waves’ end-of-season banquet was set for Thursday, July 21, when Napoleon and company will hand out end-of-season awards with Most Valuable Player going to Nolan, a rising junior and center field who led the team’s top hitter who also led in games played and on-base percentage; Most Valuable Pitcher to Shepo, who carried the best win-loss record and a 29:8 strikeout to walk ratio; Coaches Award to Thomas Hartman, a “jack of all trades” who brought “a lot of intangibles” and was a relief pitcher and third baseman; Gold Glove to Carpenter, a utility man who played all over the field and is a rising sophomore; and Gold Bat to Ben Toft, another rising sophomore who coach expects “to be one of the guys next year.”
Napoleon also wanted to recognize the behind-the-scenes MVPs: the parents.
“I thought the parents were outstanding,” he said. “They helped us out on away tournaments, always asking if they could do more, they were our drives, were there early and stayed late. They sometimes get lost in the shuffle when do you’re doing a travel team.”