Walk off sends New Trier to sectional final

Stressler and Byrnes drive Trevs to thrilling win


An epic 9-inning battle was concluded Thursday night between the Trevians and Spartans as senior Brenden Stressler sent a walk off 3-run home run screaming over the right field fence, advancing his team to the sectional final.

“I knew it right off the bat,” he said with a grin as parents and players embraced on the field around the team. “I got a nice bat flip in there, too.”

The two teams met twice in the regular season, with New Trier taking both matchups comfortably at 11-4 and 5-0. However it was GBN who jumped to an early lead on Thursday, when a double put them up 2 runs in the 4th with Trevian pitching beginning to struggle. 

In the 4th inning, following a walk, a fielding error, and a pitching change, New Trier’s Noah Shapo gave up a towering 3-run blast that put the Spartans in a decisive 5-0 lead.

My mindset was just to keep throwing strikes because I knew the defense would make plays

— Trevor Byrnes


The struggles continued. The next inning, after multiple walks and a hit batter, the Trevians were lucky to escape with little damage done, after Glenbrook stranded 3 runners on base.

“We got ourselves in that hole by a couple of miscues and a couple walks,” noted Mike Napoleon, head coach of the New Trier squad. “At that point our mindset was, just let’s battle back. Let’s get guys on base, and let’s do something offensively.” 

The bats finally kicked in in the 5th inning with the bases loaded as senior Dylan Mayer delivered a clutch line drive single to bring in two runs. Stressler followed  with a base-clearing double that cut the deficit to 1. They hadn’t dug themselves out of the hole yet, but the fuse had been lit. 

Stepping up to the plate with 2 outs was shortstop James Novakovic, who calmly dropped a short line drive in front of the glove of a diving left fielder for a double, scoring Stressler and tying the game. At this point, according to Napoleon, the mindset shifted away from comeback mode.

“Now it’s walk off time,” he said.

The following innings saw an intense pitching showdown as senior Trevor Byrnes took to the mound for New Trier. In 4⅓ innings, Byrnes gave up just 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 4 Spartans as the game pushed into extras. 

“The nerves were definitely there in the early innings, but once I got going and gained more confidence that wasn’t really an issue,” Byrnes said. “My mindset was just to keep throwing strikes because I knew the defense would make plays.”

Rallying behind Byrnes’ lights-out slider, the Trevians finally broke through in the bottom of the 9th inning. Leading off, sophomore left fielder Ben Toft beat out a hard ground ball to shortstop. 3rd baseman Graham Mastros followed this with a single to right field. And in true dramatic fashion, the right fielder Stressler delivered the dagger, a 3-run shot that advanced New Trier to the final against the Evanston Wildkits. 

“I wasn’t trying to do too much, you know, I stayed true to my approach. The doubles and home runs come when you think about driving the ball up the middle of the field,” he said after the game.

“Our mindset was never give up,” says Napoleon. “Continue battling and good things will happen. We still had nine outs left.”

It’s also not the first time this team has dug themselves out of a hole, added Stressler.

“We started hot and then got into kind of a slump in the second half of the season. But since then we bounced back and have been playing well going into the playoffs.” 

Napoleon highlighted senior leadership as a key reason for New Trier’s successful season so far. 

“Hopefully their leadership this year carries us over to next year, where the juniors understand how to lead.”

Byrnes agrees.

“Throughout the season the seniors have really stepped up in terms of leadership and mentoring, and that has definitely shown,” he said. “Over the season we’ve formed tight bonds and grown closer as a team, and that has helped us a lot.”

The key part is trust, he continues. When each team member can rely on one another to execute plays, they have the confidence to step up and carry out their own role for the team.

This is the latest in a series of high points for the Trevians over the course of their 2023 season. On April 27, Coach Napoleon celebrated his 951st win with the team, setting an Illinois high school record. On April 24th, they secured a 5-0 win against Montini Catholic at Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. 

“My favorite part was going up to hit and seeing myself on the Jumbotron,” said left fielder Toft. “It was really just a super cool experience. Everyone was having a great time just playing the game that we love.”

“That’s something I’ll never forget,” added Byrnes. 

The Trevs will play ETHS in the final on Saturday at 11AM, and look to advance to the super sectional next week. By treating every game as an elimination game, said Napoleon, the team has prepared themselves to handle the emotions and go far this postseason. 

As the team piled onto the bus home, someone yelled.

“That was just a warm up, boys!”

For the Trevians, it sure looks to be that way.