Winnetka, Sports

Incredible New Trier baseball season ends in heartbreak

Trevians finish 33-4 as Wildkits snap 30-game winning streak

You can’t win ’em all — a phrase that, in relation to sports, most appropriately suits the game of baseball, likely the most fickle of them all.

Even still, New Trier sure did try.

The Trevians’ historic season and 30-game winning streak came to an end on Wednesday afternoon, when the Evanston Wildkits’ five-run two-out rally in the seventh inning was the difference in a 6-1 sectional result at Kerry Wood Cubs Field in Chicago.

“It’s going to happen. We’ve been down this road before and we’ve been on the other side,” said Mike Napoleon, New Trier’s head coach who was managing the final game of a decorated, 39-year career.

The Trevians Noah Shapo and Wildkits Braden Grimm were locked in a pitcher’s duel for much of the afternoon.

New Trier scored first in the third thanks to an RBI single from senior James Novakovic. Evanston answered with one in the fifth. The tie ballgame carried into the seventh when the Wildkits exploded with two outs.

A leadoff walk, sac bunt and ground out brought up Evanston’s Vincent Miller, who scorched a triple to near-right center field to give the Wildkits the lead. A hit batter put another runner on base and then Grimm hit a three-run home run to all but put the game away. The Kits tacked on one more for good measure to cap a five-run, nine-batter seventh.

Noah Shapo releases a pitch en route to five innings of one-run ball for New Trier.

The Trevians could not manage much off Grimm after the third inning. New Trier finished with five hits — all singles — on the day. Grimm struck out eight Trevians.

“We came into the game with a plan and we stuck to that plan through the first three or four innings,” Novakovic said. “We were hitting balls hard and moving up on the plate and make him throw strikes. … It just didn’t fall for us. I think when we scored our run we got away from our plan a little bit.”

He added, “It happens. That’s baseball. You’re not always going to play your best game. It just sucks this is the game that happens.”

Shapo, a senior, threw five impressive innings, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out seven. Evanston’s lone run was an effective display of small ball, as a single, bunt, wild pitch and ground out brought a runner to the plate.

Novakovic finished the day 1-for-2 with a single, walk and RBI. Senior Evan Olesker was 2-for-2 with a pair of singles. Henrick Conniff pitched a 1-2-3 inning for New Trier in the sixth.

“I felt confident through the whole game really. It’s just when that last out hits, it’s like wow,” Novakovic said. “We came in confident as we always do and I felt we had a chance to win that game but sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

Zach Perchik rounds third and heads home for the Trevians lone run Wednesday.

New Trier ends its campaign with a 33-4 record, which they achieved after a 3-3 start to the year. The Trevians won the Central Suburban South with an unbeaten record of 16-0, including a pair of wins against the Wildkits.

Novakovic was named the league’s offense player of the year, and New Trier senior Max Kaplan the league’s pitcher of the year.

The season was the swan song for Napoleon, who is a state hall of famer and became the state’s all-time winningest coach in 2023. With the 33 wins this season, Napoleon will end his career at 1,000.

“Who would have thought we’d rattle 30 in a row off. It’s crazy,” Napoleon said. “And these guys did it not just for themselves but for me, that’s what was really impressive with what they did. I can’t say enough about the camaraderie these guys had and the love they had.

“Right now, it’s sad that I’m not going to be with New Trier, but I’m going to be watching and cheering from the stands.”

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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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