Baseball: Season ends for improved Maine East bunch
5/14/12 Park Ridge Maine East hosted a game against Niles North on May 14, 2012. Maine East's Cory Evans slides safely into first base. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:56AM
It’s no coincidence that Maine East’s ascent to baseball respectability paralleled Cory Evans’ development over the last four years.
As a freshman, Evans was a talented but skinny starting second baseman, hitting in the bottom third of the order. He advanced as a speedy shortstop and leadoff hitter in 2010. Former assistant Ron Clark took over as head coach last season, and turned Evans into a reliable pitcher who hurled a two-hit shutout for an IHSA Class 4A regional victory.
But the Blue Demons’ rebuilding efforts proceeded at a frustratingly slow pace. Two years ago, Maine East went 3-24 and was blown out of games routinely. Clark’s first squad was more competitive, but finished at 4-23.
With Evans at full bloom as a senior, Maine East could challenge any opponent. The Demons started a red-hot 9-3 and closed at 12-19, nearly doubling their victory total of the last two years combined. They consistently stayed in games, including the last one.
A loaded Niles West (25-10) edged visiting Maine East 3-0 on Jason Meger’s five-hit shutout in a Niles West regional semifinal on May 23. Brilliant in defeat, Evans yielded only one earned run, three hits and two walks. He also singled, walked and stole a base.
In the fifth inning, Meger allowed a single to Andrew Glowacki and a double to Ramen Odicho, but escaped the one-out jam in the close battle.
“We outhit ’em but didn’t outscore ’em,” Clark said. “Cory did a great job. He mixed his pitches and threw strikes.”
Added Evans, who plays in a men’s league with his brother and former Demons slugger, Chris, and is considering playing college ball for either Oakton or Triton: “It’s tough, but it happens. We just had trouble getting our offense going again. We took too many pitches and didn’t attack.”
Evans wound up with a hard-luck 6-7 record with a sterling 2.55 ERA in a yeoman 90 1/3 innings to cover for a staff lacking depth. The lefty-hitting Evans led the offense with a .396 average, 40 hits, a .479 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases.
“Cory made great progress over the years. He got stronger and turned into a very savvy ballplayer,” said Clark. “We went with him as a pitcher his junior year, and that is one decision I am very happy I made.”
Three-year veterans Andrew and Tyler Glowacki were just as essential to the program’s turnaround. The senior twins rotated with Evans at shortstop, second base and pitcher. Andrew went 4-4 on the mound and hit .270 in his final campaign. Tyler batted .304.
“The Glowackis were really solid guys for us and did everything we asked,” Clark said. “They both still have a lot of upside, and can play college ball,”
Senior outfielder George Zakharia (.304 average, .429 OBP) led the Demons with 22 RBI and 10 doubles. Classmate and first baseman Steve Khatchadourian (.289) contributed eight doubles and the team’s only homer. Senior third baseman Odicho was a reliable regular, and senior right fielder Muhammad “Mo” Tabani embraced an opportunity to start early in the season.
“It was nice to see the kids reach a point that they knew they could play against anyone,” Clark said. “Thanks to them, we earned respect as a program. They gave us a foundation for the next kids to follow.”
Clark will be challenged to replace all those departing seniors, but he’ll start with a talented trio right up the middle.
Junior pitcher/outfielder A. J. Plis recorded a 2.68 ERA in 62 2/3 innings. Junior catcher Phil Papaioannou, the team’s cleanup hitter, batted .282 with a .414 OBP and 19 RBI. Junior center fielder Greg Davis missed almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his back.