Cohen, New Trier top Highland Park in regional

Pitcher's complete-game effort fuels Trevians' 8-5 victory

By Dennis Mahoney
July 16, 2012 06:52 PM

Faced with the possibility of playing four baseball games in four days, any team that has designs on winning a regional tournament in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association summer state tournament series gets a significant boost when its Game 1 starter on the mound goes the seven-inning distance.

Junior right-hander Matt Cohen gave New Trier just such a boost in 95-degree heat Monday in Winnetka in first round action in the Palatine Regional.

Cohen survived one rocky inning – the fifth – and scattered seven hits overall as sixth-seeded New Trier eliminated No. 11 seed Highland Park by an 8-5 margin. The Trevians, now 9-3, advanced to Tuesday’s second round against No. 14 seed Wheeling. New Trier will host Wheeling, a 5-2 winner over No. 3 Palatine, at 2:30 p.m.

Cohen’s pitching and timely hitting from Nolan Stojentin (3 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 run scored) and Sammy Visconti (2 for 4, 2 runs scored) kept New Trier alive as the hosts scored single runs in the first and second, four more in the fourth and two in the sixth.

The New Trier righty out-pitched Highland Park ace-to-be Brett Shimanovsky, who was part of the Giants’ rotation last spring on the varsity while Cohen was starting to emerge on New Trier’s sophomore squad. Shimanovsky did strike out nine, but four of the six runs he surrendered were earned as he departed after reaching 90 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings.

Cohen struck out six, walked two and hit a batter and pitched four straight scoreless innings before weakening slightly in the fifth. Unlike the hard-throwing Shimanovsky – who relied almost exclusively on his 80 mile-per-hour fastball – the Trevians’ starter effectively mixed his fastball with a sharp breaking curveball and a split change, three pitches he was able to locate on a consistent basis throughout the contest.

That’s the kind of consistency that earned him the nod to start in the first place, according to Scott Klipowicz, who is the Trevians' summer varsity co-coach along with Pete Drevline. The summer schedule has allowed Klipowicz, who serves as the varsity pitching coach during the spring season and doesn’t get a chance to work with the underclass levels, a chance to watch Cohen close up.

And Klipowicz likes what he sees even though some of the hurlers playing for the program’s Connie Mack entry are considered ahead of the summer varsity players as prospects.

Cohen definitely made the most of his opportunity this summer, even if Monday’s start turns out to be his last.

“We told him last week that we wanted him to start the first tournament game,” Klipowicz said. “He works quick and he throws strikes, and that’s what you want in a pitcher. He had a good year with the sophomores and he’s probably been our most consistent guy this summer.

“The movement on his fastball is just outstanding. When you’re watching, you think they’d hit it, but they take strikes just because there’s so much movement on the pitch. From a side view it looks like the pitches are right down the middle, but they couldn’t hit him because the pitches are breaking two or three inches. They couldn’t pull the trigger against him. That’s something that’s hard to teach, but he’s got it.”

Cohen said he was a little surprised to be tabbed as the starter in the opener.

“I know I pitched decent before this, but I don’t think I’ve pitched to my full potential the whole summer,” he said. “I’m just happy that the coaches had that kind of faith in me. They told me before the game just get us through the fifth, and we’ll see what happens after that. But in my mind, I wanted to throw seven.

"In the spring, my curve wasn’t working much, so I honed in on that pitch this summer. At this age you need to throw more than one pitch for strikes so the hitters will respect you. It helps a lot if you can do that.

“One of my issues when I go deep into games is that my fastball elevates when I get a little tired. That’s what happened today and Highland Park capitalized on that in the fifth. When I get tired, I have to work harder to keep the pitches at their knees.”

A two-out double by Logan Wible in the first and a two-out single by David Eagen staked Cohen to a 2-0 lead, and after the Trevians left the bases loaded against Shimanovsky in the third, they chased the southpaw standout in the fourth.

A one-out single by Oliver Katz, New Trier’s No. 9 hitter, ignited the rally. Shimanovsky misplayed a bunt by Eagen, and Visconti dropped down his second bunt single of the day to fill the bases. Stojentin lined a two-run single to left that ended Shimanovsky's day.

Reliever Charlie Elias finally retired the side, but not before bouncing a curve that resulted in two runs for the home team. Visconti scored easily from third base, and Stojentin raced all the way home from second before Giants’ catcher Harrison Carl could locate the ball in front of the New Trier dugout.

That extra run proved important when Highland Park (5-10) pushed across four runs in the fifth on singles by Jon Chudacoff and Oren Spungen, plus a two-run double by designated hitter David Hochstadt and a walk and a hit batter.

New Trier responded with two more runs in the sixth on a two-out double by Eric Samuelson, enough to secure the victory even when the Giants did plate another run on Spungen’s triple and Carl’s double in the seventh.

“I thought their pitcher did a good job of getting ahead in the count, and our guys struggled early in the game against his curveball,” Highland Park coach Eddie Pieczynski said. “He did a good job and it can be tricky when you’re adjust from wooden bats (during the regular summer season) to metal (for postseason play). You need a shorter approach.

“Brett had some early success with his fastball today, and that’s why he stuck with it. He still needs to work on keeping his pitch count down, and on trusting his defense more.”