Mount Carmel baseball coach Brian Hurry gathered his team in left field at Reavis' Ron Czarnecki Field after it beat St. Rita to win the Class 4A Reavis Sectional and told them a story.
It was about Tom Hayes getting a second chance in the sixth inning with the score tied 3-3. A dropped pop foul gave him another chance and he ripped a double to right to score two runs, which proved to be the difference in the 5-4 win.
"How many of you guys ever hear of Keith Smart?" he asked his team. "Bobby Knight, 1987 NCAA finals against Syracuse and he hit the game-winner at the buzzer. Coach Knight said when the shot left his (Smart's) hand, Knight said he felt as if time stood still and every player who ever played for him flashed before his eyes."
Hurry said he related to it.
"When Tommy hit that pop foul and then that double to right, I could see every player whoever played for me flash before my eyes," Hurry said. "Guys, I can't explain it, but that was the feeling I got."
Hayes called it special intervention from deceased Caravan players Steven Bajenski and Kevin Kennelly and assistant coach Tony Morsovillo.
"That was Stevie knocking the ball out of the mitt," Hayes would say.
Bajenski died during heart surgery in August 2009, Kennelly was killed by a punch to the head in July 11 on an Indiana beach. Morsovillo died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, in December of 2010.
"They are with us and will be with us in Joliet," Hurry said. "And don't forget Frank Kiszka -- he is Mount Carmel."
Kiszka, the longtime athletic department assistant and statistician, was a walking encyclopedia of the school. He died in 2005. You can still envision him with his loosened tie, Mount Carmel windbreaker with his scorebook, sitting at Jackson Park, where the Caravan played before moving on campus to Haggerty Field.
Hurry's story is how he feels. The Mount Carmel family is behind these guys as they try to win the program's first state title. The school has won 20, including 11 football, five hockey, three team wrestling and one basketball. Hockey is not a sanctioned IHSA sport, but the Caravan have brought home five unofficial state titles.
"The texts, the calls and emails," Hurry said. "That makes me feel good and the players feel good when I share it with them. That is what this is about -- the players who come back and that is what Mount Carmel is about."
At the Standard Bank Super-Sectional, former players John Kravetz, Sam Kint and Kevin Johnson were among those cheering on their prep alma mater.
It is about success and finishing ways to win. This team has that look -- not cocky, but sure of themselves and their teammates. They never get riled, they know someone will get a rally going.
This is a special group and may be the one to do something special.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.