Jeremy Kravetz delivers championship performance for Mount Carmel in Class 4A final

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Any other game. That’s how Mount Carmel senior left-hander Jeremy Kravetz described it and, in fact, that’s how Jeremy Kravetz acted.

Only it wasn’t any other game. It was the Class 4A state championship game, and he and the top-ranked Caravan were locked in a dead heat with Libertyville.

Pitch after pitch, play after close play, the bend-but-won’t-break Kravetz didn’t show a blink of emotion until he recorded the final out in Mount Carmel’s exhilarating 2-1 victory over Libertyville on Saturday night at Silver Cross Field.

“The whole thing doesn’t feel real right now,” Kravetz said. “Words can’t even describe it. … I treat these games like any other game. Our team was prepared. I didn’t have any nerves out there.”

Thanks to Kravetz’s six-hitter, which included four strikeouts and no walks, Mount Carmel (34-8) brings home the baseball program’s first state championship. The Kansas-bound Kravetz (9-3) certainly earned his mettle in the playoffs, delivering victories in the supersectional (Lockport) and sectional semifinal (Lyons), and a save in the sectional final (St. Rita).

“Jeremy did tonight what he did all season,” Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry said. “He makes a lot of big pitches with a lot of grit and determination.”

Libertyville senior right-hander Nate Cote, however, was matching Kravetz pitch for pitch throughout the first five innings. Locked in a scoreless tie heading into the sixth inning, Oregon-bound shortstop Jerry Houston was hit by a pitch with one out. Sun-Times Player of the Year Jason Gasser followed with an opposite-field double down the left-field line to bring home Houston.

Gasser, who made four putouts in centerfield, would eventually score on an error, giving Mount Carmel a 2-0 lead.

“I knew we needed a catalyst,” said Gasser, who finished the game 2-for-3. “I just threw my hands at it and thankfully it stayed fair.”

Libertyville (28-12-1) came out undaunted by Mount Carmel and its large contingent. The Wildcats threatened in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In the fourth, junior rightfielder Connor Simpson led off with a single and advanced to third after an error. With one out, a miscommunicated squeeze bunt led to sophomore catcher Scott Kapers gunning down Simpson at third base.

Then in the fourth inning, senior centerfielder Justin Guarnaccio (2-for-3) led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. With Mount Carmel expecting a bunt, Hurry employed a dive play in which Houston broke to second base. Libertyville’s P.J. Neumann laced a hit up the middle, but Houston was there, and had the presence of mind to gun down Guarnaccio at third base to kill the rally.

“After he hit the ball right where [Houston] was, I thought maybe this is our night,” Hurry said.

Libertyville finally broke through against Kravetz in the sixth when senior DH Kevin Calamari doubled with two outs, and Guarnaccio rapped another single, scoring pinch-runner Nick Rossetti.

But as Krazetz did all game, he got the next hitter to ground out, then retired the side the secure the Caravan’s championship after three failed attempts, including a fourth-place finish when Kravetz was a sophomore two years ago.

“Right now all I can think about is all the great Caravan players of the past, all the alumni and the coaching staff,” said Houston, a four-year starter. “All the people that have made this program what it is today.”

Libertyville concludes its impressive playoff run with the school’s second runner-up finish, the last coming in 1976. Cote (4-4) yielded five hits with two strikeouts and one walk in four innings work.

“I told the kids I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said. “[Cote] throws three pitches with good command, and that’s why we chose him for this game.”

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