Let the good times roll.
Coming off a special run to the state finals, many New Trier baseball players joined the Wilmette Waves summer program and emerged with more hardware.
The Waves topped Maine South 5-2 on Wednesday, July 19, in Deerfield to claim the Illinois Summer Baseball League championship. The win gave Wilmette 20 wins to just three losses in summer play.
The Waves’ three losses are the fewest in program history, and while Wilmette played fewer games than is typical, its winning percentage (0.854) is also the best since the Waves began in 2000.
In the title bout, rising senior Charlie Wanzenberg knocked home two runs for the Waves, while teammate Sam Nigro chipped in two hits. Jack Flood earned the win on the mound, and Caiden Carpenter the save.
This season, the wooden-bat Illinois Summer Baseball League featured eight teams broken up into two divisions. The Waves were with South Baseball (Glenview), Evanston Naturals and Wolves Baseball Club (Skokie) in the Blue, and Notre Dame, Highland Park, Deerfield and Lane Tech were in the Red.
All eight teams were seeded for the ISBL’s season-ending tournament, with the Waves claiming the top seed. Wilmette bested Lane Tech (10-4; Nigro 3 hits, Evan Olesker 3 stolen bases) and Deerfield (9-1; Patrick Heneghan 3 hits, 3 RBI) to advance to the championship.
The Waves feature New Trier baseball players, but not all of them and not all the time. Many Trevians have other summer obligations, from other sports to other baseball programs — or both as is the case for rising junior and three-sport athlete Trey Meyers.
The uncertainty makes the Waves lineup a surprise from game to game, which aligns with coach Mike Napoleon’s summer objective.
“Yes, we’re winning games, but I’m not worried so much about winning games in the summer. I’m worried about trying to get kids at-bats, giving them opportunities and as many as we can dish out,” he said.
The Waves were anchored this summer by pitchers Noah Shapo and CJ Donnelly. Both racked up innings pitched and victories. Donnelly got the win in the playoff opener, while Shapo won the semifinal tilt with a complete-game gem.
Shapo’s summer-ending start left him with a 0.00 ERA and a 5-0 record over 27 innings pitched, during which he struck out 50 batters and walked just three.
“It’s just been momentum from the high school season. It was such a magical year,” said Shapo, who pitched more than 30 innings in the Trevians’ spring season. ” … The one thing I’ve been working on from the spring to the summer is getting the curveball in for strikes and having at least two pitches I can get in the zone with any count.”
Napoleon pointed to Nigro, Olesker and Ben Toft as key offensive contributors, all three of whom hit well over .400 for the summer, he said.
Despite all the summer success, the Waves were actually winless at home.
Of course that’s only because they didn’t have a home field this summer. Winnetka’s Duke Childs Field is undergoing an overhaul that officials hope is ready for New Trier baseball’s 2024 spring season.
“It’s been crazy,” Napoleon said, calling his players road warriors. “Just traveling to every game, not hitting before games, just getting there and playing. It’s a little different than what we’re use to … but we’ve played pretty well.”
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