JOLIET | Marian Catholic sophomore second baseman Luiscarlo Avila will have a good story to tell his friends when he returns today to his native Maracaibo, Venezuela.
He has been in the United States for six months, but what a way to end the season -- with a Class 3A state title.
"Man, this is just great," he said while celebrating the Spartans 10-2 win over LaSalle-Peru on Saturday. "I didn't expect this. I am so excited and can't wait to get back here in August."
Avila is living in Homewood with his aunt Lliana Ricardo. What would have happened had rain postponed the game until Monday.
"I don't know what I would have done because my mom and dad had it (set) for me to come home (today)," Avila said. "I am glad to be a part of this."
Coming through in the clutch: Not only were all of Marian Catholic's eight runs in the third inning of Saturday's Class 3A state championship win unearned, seven of those runs came with two outs.
Five consecutive Spartans reached base after a flyout by Devin Pickett made the second out of the third inning for the Spartans. The rally was keyed by a pair of 2-RBI doubles by Brett Lilek and Brent Feldner.
Spartan junior left fielder Patrick Swanson said that was not always the case this season.
"Coming into the playoffs, we struggled with guys on base and two outs," said Swanson, who had two hits and scored twice in Saturday's 10-2 win over LaSalle-Peru. "Most of our runs during the playoffs came with two outs. Once we were in the playoffs, it is like we were a completely different team.
Cifelli bags another bag: Spartans centerfielder Robert Cifelli stole his 53rd base of the season in the first inning to set up the first run of the game. The steal of second off LaSalle-Peru starting pitcher Noah Lamboley was Cifelli's 83rd of his career. Cifelli was driven home by a single by Swanson.
According to Spartans coach Phil Wail, Cifelli easily won the East Suburban Catholic stolen base crown, with no other runner within 15 bases of the Chicago Heights senior. Last year, Cifelli stole 28 bases for the Spartans. Cifelli scored twice Saturday.
"I was even a little surprised by how fast I was this year," Cifelli said of his dramatic increase in stolen bases this year. "That extra speed, and the fact that I just got better at stealing is what made it happen."
Just short of a short one: The Spartans' eight-run inning set the table for a possible 10-run inning shortened victory, but the Spartans were unable to score after the fourth inning. Marian Catholic had six 10-run rule victories during the season, The most recent 10-run win for the Spartans was against T.F. South, April 25.
That was then ... : LaSalle-Peru's pitching staff had been nearly unhittable prior to Saturday's state championship game. The Cavaliers had given up only three runs in their six playoff wins, which was part of the 15-game winning streak the Cavaliers had snapped by the Spartans