Prep Baseball Report

Mount Carmel "D" And Eighth Inning Explosion Send Caravan To Joliet

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

CRESTWOOD - For the third time in five years, the Caravan of Mount Carmel are heading to Silver Cross Field in Joliet, for the Class 4A Semifinals on Friday. After Plainfield North’s senior catcher Jason Pacanowski deposited a Nelson Munoz fastball over the rightfield fence, tying the game at five with one out in the bottom of the seventh, the Caravan responded in the top of the eighth. The Chicago Catholic League champions, erupted for six runs and six hits and went on to an 11-5 Class 4A Standard Bank Stadium Super-Sectional victory on Tuesday night.

The Caravan victory was saved in the bottom of the sixth by two of the greatest outfield catches this reporter has ever seen. With the Caravan ahead 5-1 and sophomore right-hander Cameron Hupe sailing through the tough Plainfield North (30-8) lineup, first Louisville-bound centerfielder Josh Stowers and then freshman left fielder Alek Thomas saved the day for Mount Carmel.  

Hupe (6-1) walked the first two Tiger batters, Bryan VanDuser and Jake Dunham, to leadoff the bottom of the sixth. Tiger junior Josh Garner, who singled home the first Tiger run in the first inning, crushed a Hupe fastball to centerfield, soaring toward the centerfield wall. Stowers shaded to left center, was off on the crack of the bat and ran down the drive making a sensational over-the shoulder catch, robbing Garner of a two-run triple.

“I was shaded toward left center,” Stowers said. “I was fortunate to get the greatest jump on any drive in my entire career. That was the only way I was able to run down that drive and make the catch.”

Tiger starting pitcher Kyle Strepek (9-0) was next and hammered a shot, this time over Stowers’ head for a triple, plating VanDuser and Dunham, bringing the Tigers within two at 5-3. Notre Dame-bound Tiger first baseman Matt Babuskow, greeted Munoz, who relieved Hupe, with a laser slicing away from Thomas in left. Thomas got a great jump on the ball and made an incredible diving catch to rob Babuskow of a triple, forcing North to settle for a sac-fly. Strepek scored on the catch to pull the Tigers within one at 5-4. Munoz struck out the final Tiger batter to close out the sixth with the Caravan ahead 5-4.

“Those were two of the greatest catches I've ever seen in all my years of coaching high school baseball,” Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry said. “There is no doubt the two catches were game-savers.”

After Pacanowski’s blast thrilled the crowd of 1,361, Munoz avoided further trouble and the game moved to the fateful eighth. RBI singles by Chicago State-bound Malik Carpenter, junior shortstop Jeremy Houston and sophomore Bobby Seymour gave the Caravan an 8-5 lead. Caravan No. 9 hitter Nick Wheeler tripled home a pair and AJ Lewis concluded the Caravan eruption, with an RBI single. Caravan closer, Valpo-bound Scott Kapers, finished off the valiant Tigers in the bottom of the eighth, wrapping up the win for Munoz. With the win the Caravan ace Munoz improves to 14-0 on the season.

“This was a great team victory and our goal here at Mount Carmel is to get to state every year.” Houston said. “We scored 11 runs tonight and I was happy it was a team-motivated performance to help us get to Joliet. We have more business yet to do. Two more wins to achieve our goal.”

The freshman Thomas can hit too. Thomas’s RBI double tied the game at one in the top of the third. Houston drove home Thomas with the first of his three hits to give the Caravan a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the fifth, Thomas struck again. The super-frosh hammered a 400-foot bomb over the centerfield fence for a 3-1 Caravan lead. The Caravan tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth for the aforementioned 5-1 lead. 

“For a freshman to hit a ball 400 feet and make a sensational game-saving catch, in a huge games as this, is truly phenomenal,” Hurry added. “I am so proud of the way we hung in there after the Pacanowski homer tied the game. Plainfield North is a great team and I knew they were not going to go down without a fight.”   Plainfield North closes out the greatest season in school history. The Southwest Prairie Conference, Oswego Regional and Romeoville Sectional champion Tigers, close out the season at 30-8. It was the Tigers first sectional championship in school history and the fourth season the Tigers have won 30+ games.

“I am so happy with the way we battled back and tied the game,” Plainfield North head coach John Darlington said. “I am so proud of the way we battled and we played as well as we could have. Stowers and Thomas are great players and great players make great plays.”

Next up for Mount Carmel (35-4) will be the Golden Eagles of Jacobs (29-10) in the first Class 4A Semifinal at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Friday at 3 pm. Following the Caravan-Golden Eagle contest, defending Class 4A state champion Providence (29-11) will meet Oak Park-River Forest (31-7). The two winners will battle for the Class 4A State Championship at 5:30 on Saturday. Last season, in an all Chicago Catholic League Blue Division State Championship Game, Providence defeated St. Rita 4-1.

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