JOLIET | It figures Mount Carmel would use the running game, even in the first week of June.
But it made complete sense, given the way the Caravan stitched together an 8-0 victory over Neuqua Valley on Friday to advance to the state championship in Class 4A. Mount Carmel plays Libertyville for its first championship in baseball at 5:30 p.m.
The Caravan's runs on Friday weren't scored with booming blasts to the outer reaches of Silver Cross Field, or beyond the fences. Instead, it was basic baseball, slap hitting and station to station running, a steal with the opportunity demanded, and taking advantage of miscues.
For the 33rd time this season, it worked. Four hits in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth brought seven Caravan runners across the plate, the four runs in the fourth breaking open a scoreless game, the three in the fifth putting it out of reach.
But it started with Mount Carmel pitcher Marco Boricich getting out of a jam in the bottom of the third. The Wildcats' Matt Wollnik stood on third with one out after a single, a steal and a sacrifice, but would get no further.
"Marco got fired up, to say the least," Caravan coach Brian Hurry said.
He struck out Jeff Evak, a .372 hitter, on three pitches. After Mike Reisner walked, Boricich coaxed Dylan Goss, a .363 hitter, into grounding out to second to end the inning.
"It's easy to get intense, try to strike everyone out, do your own thing, but I actually took a deep breath and remembered what Coach said about our defense being the best in the state, which I completely believe it is," Boricich said. "(We) carried momentum into the next two innings."
Boricich (8-1), who scattered five hits, would throw only 10 pitches in the next two innings, when the Caravan (33-8) was scoring seven times on Neuqua's Cody Coll. The senior Wildcat had been nearly perfect for three innings, and now was barely less than that. And the difference was all Mount Carmel needed.
Josh Stowers singled to short, just beating out Wollnik's big throw from deep in the hole, and after moving to second on a fielder's choice, was singled home by Jason Gasser (2-of-4, 2 RBI). Two batters later, Tom Hayes (2-of-3, 2 RBI) singled to right, scoring Gasser. After Malik Carpenter reached on yet another single, Goss failed to glove Boricich's hard liner down the first base line, and the two-base error allowed Hayes and Carpenter to score.
"We got a chance to see him (in the first three innings), see what he's got," Gasser said of Coll (7-4). "Everyone started picking up his fastball, his change and his curveball."
And picking on them. Mount Carmel's fifth was much like the fourth, with three runs scoring with two out thanks to singles by Gasser and Beau Filkins and a double by Hayes.
Mount Carmel added a run in the seventh, but it was all over but the handshakes. Neuqua closed 30-10.
"I had two strikes on a lot of hitters and I just wasn't getting the third strike to get them out," Coll said. "I was just leaving it too close, they were getting a bat on it and finding holes.
"It's just baseball."