No. 6 Mount Carmel spoils No. 1 St. Rita's celebration

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

CHICAGO – Saturday perfectly summarized the rigors of the Chicago Catholic Blue. Both No. 1 St. Rita and No. 3 St. Laurence entered the day needing a win against their respective opponent to claim at least a share of the conference crown. A win, coupled with the other team’s loss, would give either squad sole possession of bragging rights.

As it turned out, both St. Rita and St. Laurence lost – which meant they shared the tough Chicago Catholic Blue championship.

St. Rita wasn’t exactly dog-piling on the mound in celebration of their first league title since 2007 after No. 6 Mount Carmel hammered the Mustangs, 12-4, to spoil St. Rita’s senior day. On Wednesday, St. Rita (28-3, 13-3) had smashed Mount Carmel (22-6, 12-4).  

Meanwhile, in Burbank, No. 20 Brother Rice spoiled St. Laurence’s senior day with a 2-0 shutout – but the Vikings still won a share of their second straight conference title.

Such is life in the Chicago Catholic Blue.

“Talk about backing into a championship,” said St. Rita coach Mike Zunica. “That’s what makes the Catholic Blue special.”

Believe it or not, St. Rita actually led 3-2 after four innings before the bottom fell out for the Mustangs and their ace left-hander Mike Costanzo (8-1). Mount Carmel exploded for nine runs in the fifth inning – eight of which occurred after two outs. The defending 4A champion Caravan pounded out five hits and were the beneficiaries of six walks in the inning. Eight consecutive batters reached base after the second out was made.

Junior DH Nick Wheeler dealt the big blow with a bases-clearing double, and junior first baseman Malik Carpenter delivered a two-run single in the inning. Sophomore shortstop Jeremy Houston and junior catcher Scott Kapers also had run-scoring singles.

“The thing I liked most about the fifth inning was we got eight of the nine runs with two outs,” said Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry. “That’s what championship teams do.”

The run support was more than enough for Mount Carmel ace left-hander Marko Boricich (5-1). The Penn State recruit went 5.2 innings, yielding seven hits, three runs, one earned, with four strikeouts and four walks. Three of his walks came in the first inning when his two-seam fastball was running out of the strike zone.

“Obviously (St. Rita) is a great hitting team,” said Boricich. “I had my own mental scouting notes on how to pitch those guys.”

Kapers, a Valparaiso recruit for his defensive abilities behind the plate, came in to close the game. Kapers needed only one pitch to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, and closed the door in the seventh after St. Rita loaded up the bases again. Despite having little time to warm up, Kapers came out firing 86-89 mph fastballs. Kapers also finished 2-for-4 with a double and RBI.

Mount Carmel tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth when Louisville-bound outfielder Josh Stowers ripped his first home run down the left-field line despite being fooled on a curveball. Unsigned senior centerfielder Greg Plozaj also hit a two-out, solo homer in the seventh. Junior second baseman Ako Thomas, a Michigan recruit, walked three times, scored two runs, and had a highlight-reel play to end the game when he made a diving play up the middle, got to his knees and flicked the ball across his body to edge the runner.

Jake Shepski paced St. Rita with a 2-for-3 day with a RBI, run and a walk. Sophomore outfielder Danny Gleaves had a single and was on base four times, and junior third baseman Tyler Halas went 1-for-2 with two walks.               

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