Houston comes through for CaravanMt. Carmel # 1 sophomore Jerry Houston is congratulated by his team mates after he hit a line drive in the bottom of the 7th inning driving in the winning run for Mt. Carmel, as they win the 4A Sectional Championship over Oak Park-River Forest at Mt. Carmel's Haggery Field at 64th and Dante, Chicago, IL on Saturday 6/4/11. Final score was 3-2.|Judy Fidkowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2011 7:52PM
For many kids, the situation would have caused a bit of anxiety: sectional championship. Tie game. Bases loaded. Bottom of the seventh inning.
For Jerry Houston, it was no different if he had been leading off the game.
“Just have fun,” said Houston, Mount Carmel’s sophomore shortstop, of his approach in the seventh. “That’s what baseball is all about.”
It got a whole lot more fun for the Caravan after Houston slapped a single into left field that scored pinch-runner Ryan Fitzpatrick for a 3-2 win over Oak Park-River Forest in the Class 4A Mount Carmel Sectional.
It was the Caravan’s first sectional championship since 2006.
Mount Carmel (31-7) advances to play Lincoln-Way East at Monday’s Standard Bank Supersectional in Crestwood.
“Houston plays more like a senior than a sophomore,” Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry said. “He’s been one of our more consistent hitters all season.”
Houston failed to get the ball out of the infield his previous three at-bats.
He would get a chance at redemption after Dan Pappas and pinch-hitter Frank Kelly singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Jason Gasser laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third.
Oak Park (29-10) elected to intentionally walk red-hot Chris Sujka, which loaded the bases for Houston.
“I said to one of my assistants (Ismael Jaquez), ‘if I have Gasser bunt, they’re going to walk Sujka (who has a team-record 13 homers),’ ” Hurry noted. “He (Jaquez) was like, ‘so what, we got Houston.’ ”
Houston came through with the clutch hit, but pitcher John Kravetz (11-3) was outstanding for seven innings.
In fact, the Lansing resident had a no-hitter and 2-1 lead, compliments of Jeff Boehm’s solo homer in the sixth, heading into the seventh inning.
But Frank Picchiotti led off the frame wtih a single, negating the no-no, and eventually scored the tying run on Mike Brennan’s groundout.
That set up Houston’s heroics in the bottom of the seventh.
Kravetz walked five, hit four batters, including three in the fifth inning, and struck out eight during a 116-pitch performance.
The bout with wildness in the fifth allowed Oak Park to break a scoreless tie and take a 1-0 lead.
“It didn’t feel like I had a no-hitter going,” said Kravetz, an Illinois recruit. “I had like five walks and five hit batters (really four). But I did have my eye on it.”
Jack Picchiotti’s sacrifice fly gave Oak Park a 1-0 lead.
The Caravan countered with a run off Oak Park pitcher P.J. Brennan in its half of the fifth. Pappas led off with a laser beam double to left-center field. One out later, Gasser blooped a single to left that scored Kelly, who was pinch-running, and tied the game 1-1.
Boehm’s homer — a shot to straightaway center field in the sixth — gave Mount Carmel a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Brennan allowed eight hits — three of which came in the seventh, three walks and struck out one.
Oak Park third baseman Alec Jeffries made three outstanding plays defensively, robbing Houston twice and Sujka once.
“Oak Park played an outstanding game,” Hurry said. “I’m so proud of Kravetz. He’s a fierce competitor.”