Winnetka, Sports

Coach Naps presented with gifts, kind words and New Trier’s 27th straight win in his final regular-season game

The Mike Napoleon farewell tour reached another milestone Monday, when the legendary baseball coach managed his final regular-season game.

New Trier High School hosted pre- and postgame ceremonies to honor Napoleon at Duke Childs Field in Winnetka. Prior to the Trevians matchup with Mundelein, a 5-4 victory, the team’s 27th in a row, New Trier Athletic Director Augie Fontanetta praised Napoleon, who was joined by his family and friends on the diamond.

“What you will not see in the recordbooks is his true passion and dedication to his students, their families and our community,” Fontanetta said about Napoleon. “I’ve been privileged to work with many head coaches throughout my career … and I can tell you whole heartedly that Naps is one of the best I’ve ever been around.” 

Napoleon also received mementos from both New Trier (a framed No. 22 jersey) and the visiting Mundelein program.

Mike Napoleon smiles with his wife, Melanie, during the pregame ceremony.

Napoleon is completing his 28th season at the helm of the Trevians and his 39th overall (Providence Catholic and Notre Dame College Prep) coaching Illinois high school baseball. Last season, 2023, he took possession of the state’s all-time wins record when New Trier gave him his 951st victory.

With New Trier baseball, excluding a year (2020) wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Napoleon has averaged more than 27 wins per season. His Trevian teams — including this year’s and last year’s teams — have recorded 12 seasons with at least 30 wins and single-digit losses.

Under Napoleon, the Trevians have collected 15 Central Suburban League championships, 19 regional crowns, 10 sectional titles and six state trophies (top 4), including state championships in 2000 and 2009.

Napoleon called his final regular season game “kind of bittersweet,” as he feels he still has “coaching left in me.” But he also feels it is the right time and was glad to see so many former Trevians and Trevians parents in the crowd.

“I think I touched a lot of kids’ lives, a lot of families’ lives,” he said. “Looking back on it, 39 years as a head coach, that’s a long time. I don’t have to worry about scheduling Arizona trips or plane rides or anything like that anymore.”

He added, “We have great kids, great families. Everyone feels a part of my accomplishments because it’s their accomplishments as well.”

James Novakovic rounds third base after his second-inning home run Monday, May 20.

The Trevians did their part to contribute to the festivities with a 5-4 victory against Mundelein, pushing New Trier to 30-3 with its 27th straight victory.

Napoleon has seen plenty in his decades in high school baseball. But a winning streak like this? It’s a first for him.

New Trier’s most recent stretch may be its most impressive of the season. Four of the Trevians’ past five opponents — Glenbrook North, Libertyville, Stevenson and Mundelein — have achieved 20 or more wins apiece and the other — rival Loyola Academy — has 17 wins and plays in the state’s toughest conference.

The Trevs won three of the games by one run, another by two and the other by three. Senior third baseman Sam Nigro has appreciated the strong competition — and of course the victories.

“We’ve had tougher competition. It’s good for the playoffs to play close games like this,” he said. “Higher atmosphere. It’s been exciting for us. … They’ve been close, competitive games. It’s good for us. I love closer games.”

Nigro had a 3-for-3 day in Monday’s win, recording a double, two singles, a walk and a run scored. He was on base for the big blow: James Novakovic’s three-run blast in the second inning, making it 4-0 Trevians.

Trevs senior Sam Nigro slides into third base during his team’s victory.

In its final game before the postseason, New Trier used a handful of pitchers. Justin Wood started and threw three innings of no-run ball to get the win. Justin Rausch, Jack Flood, Drew Fullenkamp and Jack Wilson pitched an inning each to finish it off.

In the sixth inning, Trey Meyers’ run-scoring fielder’s choice scored Jake Bentivenga (2-for-2, 2B, RBI) for New Trier’s fifth run, an important tally as Mundelein’s rally fell just short in the seventh inning.

Evan Olesker added a pair of hits for New Trier, and Aidan Nolan chipped in a single and run scored.

The Trevians begin the postseason as the top seed in the IHSA Class 4A Lane Tech Sectional. They will host Maine East on Wednesday, May 22, to open regional play. The regional championship is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25. The sectional also includes No. 2 Lane Tech, No. 3 Glenbrook North, No. 4 Evanston and No. 5 Loyola Academy.

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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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