JOLIET | The number is deceiving.
It read .271 next to Mount Carmel designated hitter Tom Hayes' name before the start of Friday's Class 4A semifinal game.
That's not a headline-producing batting average in high school baseball.
His 16 RBIs coming into the game was only seventh on the team of big hitters.
But Hayes comes through when it counts. He did so again against Neuqua Valley, going 2-of-3 with 2 RBI in the Caravan's 8-0 romp over the Wildcats, all the while following the mantra of Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry.
"Coaches say big-time players come up big in big-time situations," Hayes said. "I'm only trying to do everything as simple as possible. Go with the approach, hard up the middle. It's working.
"I'm not trying to hit home runs. I don't even have a home run this year, but I could care less, because look what we're doing. We're getting team runs out there, moving runners over, hitting ground balls when we need to, bunting when we need to.
"For me, I'm simplifying everything, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself. I'm prepared."
The payoff is in the results, and this isn't the first time Hayes has made a big difference. His double in last week's sectional final against St. Rita is already the stuff of legend, since it came on the pitch following a dropped foul ball. The double to right scored two and gave the Caravan a 5-3 lead. They hung on to win 5-4.
MR. HUSTLE: Mount Carmel sophomore Josh Stowers beat out an infield hit in the fourth inning, which opened the doors to a four-run inning. He said he knew he had to put on his burners.
"I knew it would be close, so I hustled down the line," Stowers said. "I knew I had to get on and if I did, we could get something going."
He scored the game's first run when Jason Gasser singled him in.
"That was a big play," Gasser said of Stowers' infield hit. "He got us going and we all started hitting."
KRAVETZ READY: Lefty Jeremy Kravetz will pitch for Mount Carmel in today's championship and is looking forward to it.
"I am really excited," Kravetz said. "It's another big game and I am looking for it to be another challenge."
Kravetz had two big wins in the postseason, both complete games. He beat Lyons Township in a Class 4A Reavis Sectional semifinal win, then went the distance in the Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium Super-Sectional win over Lockport. In between, he pitched the seventh inning to preserve the sectional title over St. Rita.
"Our team has just played great and when I get out there, I know they have my back," Kravetz said. "I know whoever we play, they are a great team and I will just have to throw strikes."
CARAVAN TOUGH OUTS: Neuqua Valley starting pitcher Cody Coll said even when getting ahead on the Mount Carmel hitters, they were tough to get out.
"It's probably one of the better lineups I've pitched against this season, one through nine," Coll said. "They're always attacking the first pitch, putting good swings on pitches that are right around the plate."
He said they also made good contact and made he and his teammates make the plays.
"They were hitting the ball pretty hard up the middle," Coll said. "Most of the plays you make there are just luck. I made one, but couldn't find my glove to make the other plays."
ETC., ETC.: Mount Carmel's winning streak of six straight entering the title game is two short of its longest of the year. ... Neuqua Valley had won seven straight and 16 of its previous 17 games before meeting the Caravan. ... Marco Borocich's three strikeouts ran his total to 69 for the season in 71 innings.