The curiouser and curiouser Class 4A Mt. Carmel sectional championship baseball game featured a final twist in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With Oak Park-River Forest expecting a sacrifice in the tied game, Mt. Carmel’s Frank Kelly faked a bunt and grounded a hit down the line past pulled-in third baseman Alec Jeffries. After Jason Gasser did lay down a sacrifice and Chris Sijka was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, Jerry Houston bounced a hit over Jeffries’ head, lifting the Caravan over the Huskies 3-2 Saturday afternoon at Haggerty Field in Chicago.
“I just tried to relax,” Houston said about his game-winning at-bat. “I’ve had a pretty rough tournament so far. My team needed some help so I just wanted to put the ball in play, and now we’ve got three more games to go (to win state).”
Mt. Carmel (31-7) advances to play Lincoln-Way East in Monday’s Crestwood supersectional thanks in part to Mt. Carmel coach Brian Hurry’s decision to have Kelly swing away.
“You still have to execute that,” OPRF coach Chris Ledbetter said. “It’s pretty easy to draw it up. It’s very difficult to execute.”
“He just found a hole,” Hurry said of Kelly. “Sometimes you just hit it where they ain’t. That’s baseball.”
That culminated a wild game between the postseason rivals, who met in sectionals for the third-straight season. They split the previous two meetings.
Winning pitcher John Kravetz navigated through wildness to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning before settling for a one-hitter. He hit four batters, walked four and threw 125 pitches.
“I felt really good today, but I was all over the place,” said Kravetz, who struck out eight and improved to 11-3. “It didn’t really feel like I had a no-hitter going even though I did. What usually makes me a good pitcher is my control. That’s what I bank on, I guess. I’ve had like 12 walks all year, but I just didn’t have my control today. I was lucky to give up only two runs.”
Kravetz hit Eric Cybulki, Frankie Picchiotti and Zach Weigel in the fifth inning to set up Jack Picchiotti’s one-out sacrifice fly that gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Mt. Carmel tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Dan Pappas led off with a double and Gasser delivered a one-out, RBI single.
The Caravan took a 2-1 lead on Jeff Boehm’s home run in the sixth inning. The Huskies thought that they had Boehm struck out on the previous pitch, but the base umpires ruled that a foul tip bounced before catcher Jack Picchiotti caught it.
“The kid hit a home run, but we struck him out on the pitch before, and I’ll stand by it,” Ledbetter said.
“I caught it,” Jack Picchiotti said. “It was a blown call.”
“I heard the third-base umpire immediately call it foul,” Hurry said. “I could not tell.”
OPRF rallied to tie the game in the seventh. Frankie Picciotti broke up Kravetz’s no-hitter with a leadoff single into center. After Weigel walked, Frankie Picchiotti advanced to third on Jack Picchiotti’s fly out to center and scored on Mike Brennan’s ground out to short.
But Mt. Carmel pushed a run across the plate in its last at-bat on its home field.
“We said this was going to be one of the hardest ones we’ve ever had to win in this program, and it turned out to be just what we thought it was going to be,” Ledbetter said.
OPRF pitcher P.J. Brennan (6-4) went the distance. He allowed nine hits, walked two and struck out one.
It was tough for Ledbetter to see his team’s season end.
“I couldn’t even talk to them down there (during the postgame meeting),” he said. “They’re a great group of kids. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun around a group of guys.”