A Saturday silencer
Host Caravan blow past Spartans
Unlike a year ago, Oak Lawn’s postseason extended into the weekend.
Mt. Carmel, however, put an emphasis on the second part of that last word when the Spartans came calling Saturday.
Oak Lawn fell behind 6-0 at the outset and never recovered, eventually absorbing a 13-0 slaughter-rule defeat in the Caravan-hosted Class 4A regional final. The Spartans had reached that contest by virtue of a 6-4 win over Whitney Young in a Thursday semifinal.
“It says a lot about the quality of [this sectional] — there’s no easy game,” Oak Lawn coach Bill Gerny said. “Everybody has quality ballplayers.”
That included the Dolphins, although they gambled by holding out their top pitcher on Thursday. The Spartans eventually saw a hurler who handcuffed them but not until the fourth inning, by which time they had constructed a 6-2 lead.
“I don’t want to say Whitney Young was overlooking us, but I think they made the same mistake I made last year,” Gerny said, referring to his saving 2013 ace Bob Kametas for a second-round regional game that never happened for Oak Lawn.
Mt. Carmel didn’t follow suit. It sent Marko Boricich to the mound, and the senior who guided the Caravan to a Class 8A football title last fall as their quarterback yielded only two hits while fanning five over five innings. Joe Dodaro and Brandon Quillin accounted for the Spartans’ lone safeties.
Oak Lawn (13-23-1) was fighting an uphill battle right from the beginning, thanks to Mt. Carmel’s six-run explosion in the opening frame, a rally fueled by two Spartans errors and a couple of seeing-eye hits. One of the latter was a bunt that Oak Lawn failed to let roll foul before picking it up.
“When you look at 6-0 in the first inning, it’s deflating,” Gerny said. “It’s overwhelming to think you’ve got to come back. It’s [probably] not going to happen.
“Obviously, we wanted to do better, but that was a good team we ran into. We had seen that Brother Rice beat them 10-0 and we thought this wasn’t the same Mt. Carmel team [as in recent years]. We were wrong.”
While the Caravan’s early barrage undoubtedly was the biggest component working against the Spartans, not to be ignored was Mt. Carmel players’ pregame demeanor.
“The intensity when we got there [was impressive],” Gerny said. “Their team was loud, their fans were loud — [during the game] I couldn’t even give directions from the third-base coach’s box because they couldn’t hear me.
“I won’t say our guys were intimidated, but I think they were shell-shocked.”
That being said, Gerny felt his younger players benefited from competing in such a noisy environment.
“It couldn’t have gone any worse, but we want to be back there,” he said. “At the end of the game, we only had two seniors out there and the experience of playing in that atmosphere can only help. Maybe it won’t be so bad for us next time.”
And Gerny is confident there will be a next time for Oak Lawn, sooner rather than later. Pitchers Matt Dunne and Mitch Swatek represent the Spartans’ most significant graduation-induced losses heading into 2015.
“They aren’t going to be easy to replace, but I think Oak Lawn is definitely on the rise,” Gerny said. “Our future is bright for the next two years.”
Oak Lawn 6
Whitney Young 4
Another Swatek, sophomore Justin, delivered a key two-RBI single as part of the Spartans’ four-run uprising in the fourth that gave Dunne a rare lead with which to work on Thursday.
Dunne’s ERA was well under 2.0 for the season, even after giving up two earned runs on this occasion. His sub-.500 ledger was a by-product of the continued failure of Oak Lawn’s offense to provide much support, and that did nothing to reduce Gerny’s faith in his No. 1 hurler.
“You put him on the mound and you feel confident,” the coach said.
Dunne threw 115 pitches versus the Dolphins, which made him unavailable for use on Saturday had a situation warranted his presence. Still, Gerny said that “if he would have been at 75 percent [physically], I would have rolled the dice with him.”
“The strike zone gets smaller in the playoffs and he had to make perfect pitches [on Thursday], and he did,” Gerny said. “We didn’t beat a pushover team. That was the best team we faced all year [to that point].
“You could look at our record and say we weren’t a good team, but no other team from our [side of the South Suburban] conference made it to a regional final in 4A.”
Dodaro, Mitch Swatek and John Roberts also had RBI for the Spartans in their win.
Oak Lawn 000 00 — 0
Mt. Carmel 612 4 x — 13
Oak Lawn 200 400 0 — 6
Whitney Young 002 200 0 — 4
Oak Lawn 2B: Dodaro, J. Swatek, M. Swatek. RBI: J. Swatek 2, Dodaro, Roberts, M. Swatek. WP: Dunne (4-6).