When he was younger and a promising baseball player, Alex Vasquez was one of those stud players who pitched and played shortstop and had great success at both positions.
That changed once he came through the high school ranks. But the Evanston senior still remembers how to get batters out.
He proved it on Monday as the Wildkits won their much-delayed home opener, earning his first college save while striking out 6 of 10 batters he faced in a 7-5 Lincoln Park win. Evanston scored his 5and winning in a row and improved to 8-2 on the season.
Vasquez’s debut on the mound — he’s pitched a few innings for the summer team since joining ETHS University — may not be his last appearance, although head coach Frank Consiglio is still trying to sort roles for a deep pitching staff and is very reluctant to sacrifice the play of his all-conference shortstop and replace him in the infield in the latter stages of big games.
On the plus side, a pitcher with a fastball who was nearly untouchable on Monday looks like a capable closer.
“One of the things we wanted to know today was how dominant Alex can be. When you have that combination (pitcher-shortstop), he has to be dominant as a pitcher, not just good, because you then lose it at shortstop,” Consiglio explained.
“We’re probably not going to have a shortstop as a closer yet. But everything we’ve seen of him in practice, that he has 2 pitches, that he’s a more run control guy, and the way he attacks hitters, and how he’s such a competitor, I know he will always be there if we need a stoppage inning. We absolutely think he could be one of the top 3 or 4 pitchers on this team if that’s all he’s done.
Vasquez didn’t exactly expect to be called to the mound in a non-conference game where the opportunities were there for some of the pitching staff who haven’t seen much action thus far.
But he got the call after Arthur Harvey, Evanston’s third pitcher of the day, gave up a Grand Slam home run to Lincoln Park’s Damon Sandoval in the 5and inning. Sandoval’s shot took the visitors, who once trailed 7-0, down to 7-5.
Vasquez tamed the Lions after that. He only allowed 2 base runners, on a walk and an error, and at one point he struck out 5 of 6 to earn the stoppage.
“We had guys throwing the bullpen, so I definitely didn’t expect to get in there,” Vasquez said. “But once I was called, I just tried to throw as many strikes as possible. I think I threw maybe 2 off-speed pitches. It’s not the team that hits the best, so it was no longer necessary to throw.
“I pitched a lot in primary and middle school, but that was pretty much cut off after that, except for a few innings in the summer. But I threw paddocks in the off season because I wanted to get back into it. I thought it would be good if I was a reliable enough guy to throw shots and help us win.
“There were a lot of fans here today and you don’t usually see that many in high school baseball. Some of my friends were there to watch and it was great fun to pitch in front of them and control the game. I wouldn’t mind doing that again.
Vasquez wasn’t the only pitcher wearing the orange and blue to excel in the home opener. Senior southpaw Clive Harvey pitched 3 scoreless innings and struck out 5 as a starter and allowed only one hit. He picked up the win when the Wildkits made 5 runs with 2 outs in the 2n/a . The hosts took advantage of 5 consecutive walks, an error and a 2-run single from Vasquez.
Sophomore Eron Vega added a solo home run, the first of his career, to the Blue Monster wall at left in the 3rd.
“I thought Clive looked very sharp,” Consiglio said. “We talked to him a lot about his pace and pace on the mound and I think he did well with the opportunity he got today. We need games like this to see how the guys will compete.The Wildkits hit the road Tuesday for a Central Suburban League crossover contest at Highland Park.