Surprising DH success at New Trier

Niles West pitcher Kyle Colletta making a throw to first base from the ground. Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.com

WINNETKA, Ill. – New Trier senior Tommy Blanchard isn’t the most intimidating designated hitter from a physical standpoint.

Standing 5-foot-6, Blanchard doesn’t resemble Adam Dunn when he steps to the plate. But what Blanchard lacks in size, he makes up with for with his quick hands and powerful legs, especially in the clutch.

On Tuesday against Niles West, Blanchard showed that again. With the game tied, two runners on and two outs in the third inning, Blanchard pounced on a fastball and ripped the ball into the right-field corner to clear the bases.

Blanchard’s hit would key an eight-run inning for the Trevians and seal a 9-5 win over visiting Niles West, giving the Wolves their first Central Suburban South loss.

“I’ve been seeing the ball really well the last few weeks,” Blanchard said. “Luckily, coach has given me a chance. I’m short in stature, but when a hitter’s hitting, you got to stay with him.”

New Trier coach Mike Napoleon has no plans of making a switch anytime soon. Blanchard has become one of the Trevians’ most reliable sluggers.

“He’s probably not your prototypical DH,” said Napoleon, whose team improved to 14-6 overall and 6-3 in the CSL South. “But he’s really been hitting the ball lately. He’s come through lately with some big hits and motivated the rest of the team.”

New Trier’s big inning did come with some controversy.

With one out and New Trier’s Eddie Fay on first base, Josh Perlmutter grounded the ball to Niles West shortstop Kevin Ross. Ross stepped on second base for the second out, leaped over a sliding Fay and threw the ball to first base. The throw was off the mark, and first baseman Kenny Blanchard had to reach far to his right for the ball.

The throw had beaten Perlmutter to first and would have been the final out of the inning. But the umpire called him safe, explaining Kenny Blanchard’s foot had come off first base when he extended for the ball. Niles West coach Garry Gustafson came out to argue, but the call remained.

From there, it would be all New Trier. With two outs, the Trevians sent eight batters to the plate and had four hits, two walks, one hit batter and scored eight runs. Leadoff hitter Charlie Tilson capped off the inning with a two-run single that gave New Trier a 9-2 advantage.

“We had nothing happening with two outs, and we just pieced together a big inning,” Napoleon said. “That doesn’t happen very often. No one wanted to make the last out.”

The lead would be enough for Trevians starting pitcher Nick Hedge, who improved to 5-0. Hedge threw six innings, allowed five hits and three runs, walked one and struck out eight.

Ross went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and a run for the Wolves (18-4, 5-1).