Marian Catholic's Robby Cifelli is like the opening of the "Mission: Impossible" TV series and movies.
Cifelli is the match that lights the fuse to the Spartans' offense.
"When Robby gets a hit, right away I figure it is good as having the leadoff guy getting a triple," Marian teammate Brett Lilek said. "He may stretch it into a double, or he will just steal second and third.
"He gets us going."
Cifelli has stolen a program single-season record 52 bases this season, shattering the mark of 28 he set last year. He is also the Spartans' career stolen base leader with 87.
Like Paul Molitor was with the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, Cifelli is the team's ignitor and he does not see it as pressure.
"My job as a leadoff guy is to get on base and help my team," Cifelli said. "Sure, I have a lot of stolen bases, but the number is not as important as us putting up numbers, runs."
Cifelli and the Spartans will face Oak Forest at 4:30 p.m. today in one semifinal of the Class 3A Lincoln-Way West Sectional. In the Spartans 4-0 win against Illiana Christian in the T.F. North Regional championship, Cifelli was on base twice, once via a walk, stole a base and scored twice. He also sacrificed a man over.
"We got all of our bunts down and that is also helping the team," Cifelli said. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice to get a guy over to score."
Marian coach Phil Wail said he pretty much gives Cifelli a green light and the senior center fielder has been a leader.
"You want your seniors to get to be leaders and Robby does the things to puts us in position to score," Wail said. "Robby just has a great feel for the game and that is something you can't teach."
Cifelli has speed, but said his knowing how to steal is more important than just sprinting. Much like a safe-cracker, Cifelli cases the pitcher as a thief might pay attention to the tumblers on a safe.
"I kind of watch and study and make the pitcher work off me," Cifelli said. "You know his moves, the strength of the catcher's arm and you get your timing down. I am not the fastest guy in the world, but you don't have to be if you can study the pitcher and know your spots."
Cifelli said his success is not just measured in his being able to steal second or third bases.
"If I can get a pitcher throwing over (to first base) and distract him, he may not give as good a pitch to the hitter," Cifelli said. "I know I am the spark plug for the offense and I have to make it go."