CHICAGO | You can call them "South Side Southpaws Plus One."
That might be a good moniker for the Mount Carmel pitching staff. Or just "Four Aces," who are just part of the depth the 2014 Caravan returns from its 2013 Class 4A state championship team.
Lefties Marko Boricich, Dave Dobrinich, Richard Fordon and righty Nelson Munoz, plus Mike Lorenzi and Jack Pappas make up a strong rotation.
Expectations always are high at Mount Carmel.
"Our goal every year is a state championship," coach Brian Hurry said. "We have the talent, but we have to replace the leadership."
Last year, the Caravan won the program's first state title, as it finished 34-8. It graduated Times Player of the Year in Jason Gasser (Northern Illinois), four-year starter at shortstop Jerry Houston (Oregon) and lefty Jeremy Kravetz (Kansas). It also graduated their leadership.
It also returns three Division I pitchers in Boricich (Penn State), Fordon (Michigan) and Dobrinich (Western Michigan), plus junior outfielder Josh Stowers (Louisville), junior infielder Ako Thomas (Michigan), junior catcher Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) and junior first baseman Malik Carpenter.
"It is all about leadership," Boricich said. "We as seniors, it is our job to not only go out and play well, but to make sure everyone is on the same page. We all have to be together."
Boricich knows about winning state titles. He quarterbacked the Caravan's Class 7A state football champions and was a backup on the 2012 team that won the Class 8A title. He was a starting pitcher on last year's state baseball champions. Boricich shut out Neuqua Valley in one semifinal. He is looking to win his fourth state title ring in two years.
"Like in football, Coach Frank (Lenti) tells us, 'It's a 'we thing,' not a 'me thing...' That is true," Boricich said. "My job is to go out and pitch, but it is also to make sure we as seniors lead."
Boricih was 7-1 last year with a 1.53 ERA and 66 strikeouts. Dobrinich was 4-0 with and 0.35 ERA. he struck out 13 in 20 innings pitched. Fordon was 5-3 with a 2.39 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched. Munoz was 1-0.
Hurry said he expects a lot from his team and not just on the playing field.
"We expect our players to go out and play as a team with a lot of heart, desire and grit from the first pitch to the last," Hurry said. "We will rely on extreme hustle and selfless play to achieve our goal of winning the last game of the season."
As for his four aces, that is a good nucleus.
'We are relying on our pitchers to throw strikes and count on our defense to make the plays for them," Hurry said. "We believe we have a solid defensive team that will make plays."
Fordon said a returning state champ can go two ways, one of them not so good.
"You can get a big head about it and not get better," Fordon said. "You know what that means? Or you can take it as a challenge to be even better. Go out and work hard everyday to achieve your goals."
Dobrinich said the tools are there for the Caravan, who are 5-0 going into today's game at Richards, but they cannot dwell on last year.
"What we did last year means nothing towards this year except it put a target on our backs," Dobrinich said. "We can build off of last year, but the improtant thing is team chemistry. In order for us to gel, we have to play as one. I know that quote sounds cheesy, but that is what we have to do. Not worry about individual stats, but what is best for our team."