JOLIET | The look of a champion is not something you can see in the Mount Carmel baseball team's eyes, but you can see it in its actions.
The players do the little things that make the difference. It has been that way all year and most obvious in the Caravan's postseason run in Class 4A. It would be the third time the school has won two state titles in one year. The football and hockey teams did so in 1988 and 1990.
Today, they have a chance to win the program's first state title. The 2005 team was second in Class AA.
Each player knows his teammate has his back and he is certainly going to have theirs. They don't get upset when some things go wrong and they don't point fingers. They are too busy finding a way to beat you.
Their postseason run has certainly prepared them as has their tough schedule. The Class 4A Reavis Sectional had Lyons Township, St. Laurence and St. Rita as well as Mount Carmel. The Caravan beat Lyons Township, the same team that ended their playoff hopes for two years in a row. Jeremy Kravetz beat them as the Caravan came from behind.
They beat St. Rita for the title, then beat a real tough Lockport team to win the Standard Bank Super-Sectional.
They did it the typical Mount Carmel way -- small ball, good pitching and tight defense. They also don't beat themselves.
Seeing them in the Reavis Sectional, I knew this team had a chance to run the table. Call it chemistry or whatever, but this is a team. No "I" in it and these kids buy into it and make sure they follow that script. It is not about padding their stats, but adding runs and keeping the other team from scoring them. Whatever it takes -- they do it and they don't complain about it. That is what makes a winner.
Friday, in their 8-0 win over Neuqua Valley in one semifinal at Silver Cross Field, six of those runs were scored after there were two outs. Jason Gasser and Tom Hayes again came up with clutch hits in both the fourth and fifth innings as the Caravan put up a four and three spot respectively.
Gasser has a chance to win a state title in football and baseball in the same school year. He was a defensive back and wide receiver on the football team which won the Class 8A title. That is something former major leaguer Scott Sanderson did with Glenbrook North in the 1974-75 school year. Gasser's toughness certainly rubs off on his teammates. He is not flashy, but gets the job done.
Pitcher Mark Boricich showed that moxie on Friday. Neuqua had a man on third with no outs, then had runners on first and third. Boricich got out of those jams unscathed. In the sixth, the Wildcats loaded the bases, but he got Matt Butler to ground to shortstop Jerry Houston Jr., who stepped on second to end the inning.
It's those little things that add up to success. That and just having that little extra kick in your step.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.