Two days after New Trier kept its postseason dreams alive with a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Central Suburban South foe Glenbrook North, the Trevians stripped the theatrics from the sectional championship with their commanding start-to-finish performance over their longtime rival.
The Trevians defeated the top-seeded Evanston Wildkits 11-0 in five innings on Saturday, June 3, claiming their second sectional title in three seasons and advancing to the state’s final eight.
New Trier advanced to the supersectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 5, at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg — home of the Schaumburg Boomers — where it will take on Stevenson.
New Trier outplayed the ’Kits in every facet Saturday, as its offense plated runs in both the second and third innings before delivering a nine-run onslaught in the top of the fourth to bury any hopes of an Evanston comeback.
Junior ace lefthander Max Kaplan silenced Evanston’s offense all afternoon. He fired a complete game gem against one of the area’s premier lineups, allowing just four hits while striking out two Wildkits and walking only one.
“I like to get ahead early with the fastball and work really quick; it just makes the hitters more uncomfortable and that’s exactly what I did today,” Kaplan said. “I just tried to get as many strikes as possible.”
Evanston’s lone threat came in the bottom of the second when the ‘Kits loaded the bases with one out. But Kaplan denied the scoring chance by getting a strike out and ground out.
“Having Max compete like that with the bases loaded and one out and then striking their hitter out and getting out of that jam was pretty big for us,” New Trier coach Mike Napoleon said.
Kaplan has been a key part of the Trevians’ strong pitching staff and performances like Saturday’s shutout have almost become the expectation when he’s on the bump, Napoleon said.
The junior left-hander also was the winning pitcher in the regional-title game, tossing a one-hitter in a 5-1 victory on May 27.
“He was tremendous today,” he said. “It’s kind of like something that we expect out of him but you can’t, … he’s a junior only, but he’s such a fierce competitor. He’s been huge for us (all year). He’s been great. He’s our guy.”
The Trevians sent 13 batters to the plate and had 10 hitters reach base during their fourth-inning explosion.
Senior Brenden Stressler, sophomore Trey Meyers and junior Evan Olesker all had run-scoring knocks in the frame. Graham Mastros and Dylan Mayer also contributed RBI in the inning after each was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Aidan Nolan started the scoring by drawing a bases-loaded walk.
New Trier preceded its game-changing inning with runs in the prior two frames via a run-scoring single from Olesker and a sacrifice fly from Stressler. Scoring early against the Wildkits’ talented pitching staff was a priority for the Trevs and a key to their sectional win.
“I think the key for us was getting an early run,” Napoleon said. “Getting that one run in the second inning means a lot. … That fourth inning was huge. Hitting is contagious and you start putting some good at-bats together and those things happen.”
Another huge aspect of New Trier’s success was the team’s ability to score early and often against Hank Liss, the Wildkits staff ace and one of the state’s top pitchers. The Trevians scored five times off before Liss exited the ballgame.
“We knew we were going to be in a tough game with one of the fiercest competitors and pitchers in Hank Liss,” Napoleon said. “He’s very good, (but) we prepared for it. We saw him during the regular season, we knew what we needed to get done, and I thought we did a good job against him.”
Napoleon added that “taking some pitches, getting guys on base and getting Liss into the stretch” early were all key elements against him.
Mastros told The Record that the team prepared for Saturday by working on hitting sliders “all day” during practice on Friday, adding that the Trevians also watched film of Liss before Saturday’s game.
“We knew we were going to face him and we knew we were going to have to get his pitch count up and get a new guy in and just straight up compete, take good, tough at-bats and be tough outs. I think that is what won us the game,” Mastros said.
Mastros and Stressler — both of whom will play for St. Louis University next season — are two returning starters from New Trier’s 2021 sectional-winning team that also made it to the state’s final eight. The Trevians advanced that year with a dramatic, come-from-behind win over Oak Park and River Forest High School.
This time around, Mastros has a message for his teammates with the supersectional looming on Monday, June 5.
“You just have to believe,” he said. “After Thursday when we were down 6-1, it was kind of demoralizing looking at the scoreboard and just thinking your innings are ticking away. But we kind of tell the guys get all the doubts out of the dugout and you just have to believe that you’re going to win and just take it pitch by pitch.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game (against Evanston) but we had to get there first. So, to get to Joliet (the site of the state finals) we have to win this next one so we just have to believe.”
Although Napoleon has one of the most-decorated coaching careers in state history, making the state’s final eight is always an experience he cherishes.
“It’s great (getting back to the final eight),” be said. “You can never take it for granted and we’ve been fortunate enough to have good teams and good players and great parents and a great community. I think a lot of teams and a lot of coaches would love to be in my situation because we’re one of eight teams left so it’s awesome.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.