Winnetka, Sports

New Trier baseball celebrates new season and field with three consecutive home wins

Abundance of pitching powers Trevians in coach Napoleon’s final season

It’s safe to say New Trier baseball enjoys its new digs.

The Trevians have christened the overhauled Duke Childs Field with three straight victories, including an 8-2 win against Oak Park-River Forest on Monday, April 8, following a grand opening celebration at the Winnetka complex.

“It’s great. It’s everything we wanted,” longtime Trevians coach Mike Napoleon said about the field.

For New Trier athletics, the change has been a long time coming. The outdated baseball, softball and lacrosse facilities — including fencing that did little to stop errant baseballs from flying onto Willow Road — were up for an upgrade in 2013, but Village of Winnetka officials squashed the plans.

About six years later, the Village, high school and Winnetka Park District cosigned a project to install stormwater mitigation underneath the property at Hibbard and Willow roads, redesign the adjacent Winnetka Golf Course and renovate the Duke Childs complex.

A renovated and turfed Duke Childs Field prior to a New Trier baseball game on April 8.

Monday’s ceremonies were an opportunity to celebrate the results of the $10-million Duke Childs portion of the project. Construction, which took less than a year, installed synthetic turf on the infields of the varsity baseball and softball fields, as well as new dugouts, scoreboards, fencing and more. The complex also gained a parking lot, additional ballfield, lockerrooms and storage, and pedestrian walkways.

The grand-opening festivities Monday featured ceremonial first pitches prior to the varsity softball and baseball games. Doing the honors were two longtime facilities managers: Dave Conway (director of physical plant services) and Jules Laude (grounds manager), both of whom are retiring following this school year.

New Trier baseball kept the party going on the field, scoring six runs in the first two innings to spearhead the 8-2 victory over the visiting Huskies. Softball wasn’t as fortunate in a loss to Resurrection.

On the baseball field, the heart of the Trevians’ order showed patience early, walking five times in the first two innings to set the table. Senior Declan Spinner took care of the rest, ripping a two-run double in the first and a two-run single in the second.

Spinner finished 2-for-2 with 5 RBI.

“Their pitcher was throwing a lot of balls so I was just looking for one in my zone,” he said of his first-inning double off the left-field fence. “I got the pitch and just ripped it. I was just trying to do the job and get guys in.”

New Trier second baseman Evan Olesker tosses the ball to first for an out.

On the afternoon, New Trier’s 2 through 6 hitters reached base seven times via walk and three times via hit by pitch.

New Trier coach Mike Napoleon said he prefers when his hitters are aggressive, but on Monday they took what they were given.

“I think they’re just good hitters. We have good hitters 1 though 9 in the order,” he said. “I think patience was a big thing, but I like to be aggressive. We fouled off too many pitches on pitches we normally hit.”

The run support was more than enough for the Trevians pitchers.

Senior Justin Wood got the start and threw three-plus innings of two-run ball. Senior Pedro Hernandez came in for the rare 12-out save, allowing no hits and no walks through his four innings.

“He was really good,” Napoleon said of Hernandez. “He’s a kid, you can put him in any situation. … He’s not just a good pitcher but he’s a good fielder.”

The victory pushed New Trier to 6-3 on the season and extended its win streak to three games — all three won on its new home field in Winnetka since it returned from their 2-2 spring break road trip to Arizona. New Trier topped Montini 9-1 on Friday, April 5, and Fremd 6-1 on Saturday, April 6.

The Trevs bring back plenty from a 2023 squad that surged into the IHSA finals in Joliet in 2023, bringing home a third-place trophy. The right-handed Wood (2.64 ERA, 45 innings in ’23) and lefties Max Kaplan (1.23 ERA, 57 innings in ’23) and Noah Shapo (2.26 ERA, 31 innings in ’23; 0.00 summer-league ERA) lead New Trier’s rotation. Special junior Henrick Coniff, a Columbia University commit, joins them, and Hernandez, Spinner (LH), Justin Rausch (LH), Wyatt Nelson and Jack Wilson all eat innings in relief.

Senior Pedro Hernandez winds up en route to four no-hit innings for the Trevians.

“Pitching is going to be our No. 1. That’s going to carry us,” Napoleon said.

The Trevians graduated standout bats Dylan Mayer (Manhattan College), Brendan Stressler (St. Louis University) and Graham Mastros (St. Louis University) but have plenty left to power the lineup. Three-year varsity starter James Novakovic (Purdue) leads a trio of Big Ten-bound returners that includes juniors Trey Meyers (first baseman/DH, Indiana) and Ben Toft (outfielder, Iowa).

Three-year starting center fielder Aidan Nolan is an impact bat and glove for the Trevians, while senior third baseman Sam Nigro, who led off on Monday, and senior second baseman Evan Olesker also return in their important roles from a year ago.

Spinner, who plays first base and pitches, said the team is feeling good since their return from Arizona.

“We bring a lot of energy, play the game the right way,” he said, adding “We’re figuring things out. We got it down right now. We’re pretty hot.”

New Trier is not only looking to meet the last year’s standard by reaching the state finals in Joliet, but also they’d like send off their head coach with a special season. Napoleon will retire after this season to end a hall-of-fame coaching career in which he’s totaled the most high school baseball victories in Illinois history.

The Trevians hit the road Thursday, April 11 (Vernon Hills), and Saturday, April 13 (Prospect), before welcoming Niles West on Monday, April 15, and opening their conference season with Evanston on Tuesday, April 16, in Evanston.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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