Plenty of ooh’s and aah’s filled the air just as much as hard-hit baseballs Tuesday at Duke Childs Field in Winnetka.
New Trier walloped five home runs in a five-inning, 12-0 victory against visiting Vernon Hills April 11 to claim its eighth win in nine tries on the young season.
Senior Dylan Mayer said when the Trevians are batting, you should pay attention.
“Honestly, any fly ball you really think has a chance of going out (of the park). A lot of guys have power on this team,” he said. “It’s exciting to watch for sure.”
Mayer socked the second of the Trevians home runs, following junior James Novakovic’s blast in the first inning.
It was Henry Wolfe’s turn in the third inning, when the senior catcher pulled back a bunt attempt before connecting on a grand slam over the right-center-field fence.
Senior Graham Mastros sent a home run to the opposite field in the fourth, and senior John Hatsis called game with a pinch-hit, three-run dinger in the fifth to make the score 12-0
“The wind was blowing out a bit, and we do have some guys who hit the ball out of the park and today it worked out for us,” New Trier coach Mike Napoleon said. “We stayed back a little bit and tried to drive the ball up the middle. … Most of our balls we were going the right way with our swing path.”
The runs were plenty to back starting pitcher Justin Wood, a junior and the son of retired Chicago Cubs great Kerry Wood.
Justin Wood allowed just one hit — a single — in his five-inning complete game, striking out nine and walking two in the process.
Wood consistently worked from ahead on hitters, throwing his fastball for strikes early in the count. After bullying batters in the first two innings — his first three strikeouts came on swinging strikes — Wood began to throw his curveball and his next three punchouts caught Cougars looking.
“It was my fastball command for the most part, my curveball when I needed it,” he said. “My curveball, I just see if I need it, but curveball, fastball location, it was all great.”
Last season, Wood was pulled up from the sophomore team midseason and produced some bright spots in an otherwise rocky year for the Trevians. As a junior, he said he’s much more comfortable on the bigger stage.
And the 18 pounds he added in the offseason are helping control his “lanky” frame, he said.
Napoleon called Monday’s performance Wood’s best, and longest, of the young season.
“Today we wanted him to extend himself a little bit, and he was ahead of hitters. He was in charge so I let him go and he did a really nice job,” Napoleon said, adding that this year the junior is pitching with “more confidence — oozing with confidence, oozing with pride in his pitches and his understanding of the game and how he’s going to go to battle with each hitter.”
The victory on April 11 moved New Trier to 8-1 in the early-going, which included a 3-1 spring break trip to Arizona.
Last season on April 11, the Trevians lost to St. Patrick to fall to 2-7 in a season in which they finished 16-17 with a first-round playoff exit. It is the only losing record on Napoleon’s coaching resume and possibly the only one in New Trier baseball history.
Many of the same contributors remain — such as seniors Wolfe, Mastros and Brendan Stressler and juniors Aidan Nolan, Novakovic and Wood — but the results thus far are very different.
“I think this team has a lot to prove this year,” Napoleon said. “A lot of these guys played last year and were part of that start and didn’t want it to happen again.”
Coach said that the Trevians’ redemption work began in the offseason when the rising seniors challenged each other and younger Trevs to participate in team workouts.
Napoleon said the coaching staff is also owning the losing season and has been working on ways to do their jobs better.
The results speak for themselves thus far, as New Trier — paced by a potent offense and new-look pitching staff with Wood, three junior left-handers and a couple senior stalwarts — is making noise.
But Mayer said the Trevians aren’t listening.
“The key is not buying into all the hype and writing and stuff and just playing our own game,” he said. “Last year, a lot of guys were buying the hype. … This year we are a really strong team all-around with a really strong camaraderie. Everyone just wants to play baseball.”
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