Baseball | Evergreen Park runs through Red foes, eyes conference crown
By Steve Millar
While he’s put up huge numbers throughout this time at Evergreen Park, senior shortstop Alejandro Munoz thinks he’s still a bit underrated and off the radar.
Munoz is hoping to change that with a big end to the regular season and an even greater postseason.
“I’m just trying to prove myself, just trying to get to the top over here,” said Munoz, who will play college baseball at Concordia (Chicago).
Munoz, who is hitting .449 with 35 RBIs — both team highs — had another big performance in a vital game May 10. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs as visiting Evergreen Park rallied for a 6-4 win over T.F. South in a South Suburban Conference crossover in Lansing.
The victory kept the Mustangs (19-9, 12-5) narrowly atop the South Suburban Red standings ahead of Oak Lawn and Reavis, which are both 11-5.
Evergreen Park concludes its regular season with conference games May 15 and 16 against Shepard, and can clinch at least a share of the Red title by winning both.
“That’d be amazing,” Munoz said. “It’d be great to bring that conference title for this school. I feel like this is the best team we’ve had in a while.”
Munoz and junior third baseman Jack Hughes have led Evergreen Park all season. Hughes is hitting .438 with five home runs and 32 RBIs.
“Alejandro and Jack are two of the best players on the South Side,” Evergreen Park coach Mark Smyth said. “They’d play anywhere. That’s kind of what happened, is those guys took over. Alejandro had the big hit and then they didn’t want to pitch to Jack, and Leo (Lesauskis) made them pay.”
The game’s turning point came in the fifth inning, when the Mustangs scored four runs with two outs to take a 5-4 lead after T.F. South (18-13, 10-7 SSC Blue) had scored four times in the third.
Luke Medina singled and Sean Higgins walked before Munoz drove them both in with a double down the right-field line.
“I was just looking to drive it up the middle,” Munoz said. “I was looking away. He came with the fastball and I took it the other way.
“After that double, I knew we were going to come back. It put all the confidence on us and gave us momentum.”
With first base open, T.F. South elected to intentionally walk Hughes. Lesauskis stepped up with a double to right-center field to drive in Munoz and Hughes and give the Mustangs the lead.
Lesauskis also shook off some early struggles to turn in a huge performance on the mound as he went six innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits for the win.
“Leo’s batting average isn’t where he wants it to be,” Smyth said. “He’s hit into some bad luck. But then he comes up with a big hit there when we’re in a conference race. That’s huge and that’s the kind of player he is.”
Sophomore Michael Rodriguez held the Red Wolves at bay in the seventh inning to earn his first save. T.F. South put runners on second and third with two outs, but Rodriguez got a game-ending fly out.
“It was my first time pitching in a situation like that,” Rodriguez said. “I was nervous, but once I got that first strikeout, I was confident. When they got those runners in scoring position, I had my teammates come in and calm me down and then I just had to throw strikes.”
Earlier in the week, the Mustangs swept a two-game series with Richards. They won 4-1 on May 8 behind strong pitching from Grady Elwood, who allowed just one run in six innings.
They rolled to a 14-4 win over the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Hughes went 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI, and Billy Duffner finished 4-for-4 with three RBI.
The Mustangs ended the week with a 12-4 loss to St. Francis on May 13.
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