JOLIET | In the moment before the moment, Jeremy Kravetz hesitated.
Some of his Mount Carmel teammates were already bounding over the dugout rail at Silver Cross Field, anticipating first baseman Malik Carpenter would soon cradle the pop foul off the bat of Libertyville's Jimmy Govern.
"My initial reaction, it didn't seem like it was going to be a pop fly to win us the state championship," the Caravan pitcher said. "Then it sort of came to me, this was it, and I ran like five feet toward Malik.
"Then I ran at Jerry (Houston) … then Beau (Filkins) tackled me and the dog pile happened."
With Carpenter's catch came a 2-1 win over the Wildcats and the Class 4A state championship. And the dog pile on Kravetz, whose complete-game six-hitter was one of the keys Saturday to Mount Carmel becoming the first Chicago Catholic League team to win a state title since Brother Rice in 1976.
Meanwhile, Houston, the shortstop, was on his hands and knees, alone at second base.
"Oh man, I was crying, without a doubt," Houston, one of five three-year regulars among the seniors, said. "This is far beyond any of us as a team. This is about our Carmel family. This is about all the guys who came before us, every student, every baseball player, everyone who made Mount Carmel what it is today."
With the game still a scoreless duel between Kravetz (9-3) and Libertyville's Nate Cote (4-4) in the bottom of the fourth inning, Houston got caught between hops on a potential double-play grounder, the carom off his leg leaving Wildcats on first and third with one out.
On the next pitch, sophomore catcher Scott Kapers threw to third to get Connor Simpson trying to scramble back to the bag.
"I think (Matt Vogt) was supposed to suicide squeeze," Kapers said. "I saw (Simpson) coming. I knew I was going to throw it. That's why they have me back there -- defense."
Houston saw it, too.
"I was so happy Scott picked me up," he said.
Houston would deliver his own fielding gem in the fifth, charging a hopper and throwing to third to get a fielder's choice after Justin Guarnaccio reached second on a base hit and a throwing error to open Libertyville's half of the inning.
Then, with one out in the top of the sixth, Houston started the decisive rally.
"I was thinking 'get on any way possible,'" he said. "I got up there, crowded the plate, and I was able to get hit."
The glancing blow off his shoulder set the stage for Jason Gasser's RBI double, a deep fly that landed just inside the left field foul line. After moving to third on a fly out, Gasser scored when Govern muffed his backhand attempt on Tom Hayes' grounder to short.
Libertyville (28-12-1) scratched out a run in the bottom of the inning on a double by Kevin Calamari and Guarnaccio's RBI single, but Kravetz escaped without further damage.
With the win, Mount Carmel finished 34-8 on the season. It was the 16th IHSA state title in school history, after 11 in football, three in wrestling and one in basketball.
Coach Brian Hurry good-naturedly accepted a Gatorade dunking from his players, but otherwise preferred to watch, rather than take part in, the celebration.
"I just want it to be about the players," he said. "We have demanded so much from them, and they've stepped up. They've tried so hard to do what we asked them to do -- and they did it."