Marian, Mount Carmel on collision courseMarian Catholic's Jacob Lorentz (10) is congratulated by teammates after driving in three runs against St. Laurence in the top of the seventh inning. | Judy Fidkowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 21, 2011 12:54PM
No matter what happens in Thursday’s Richards Regional final of the summer state playoffs, rest assured this is one week Phil Wail won’t forget.
It’s been a memorable few days on and off the field for Marian Catholic’s coach, who has been working to get his alma mater back on the short list of programs to watch in the Southland.
Wail missed Marian’s regional opener on Monday, the day his son Alexander was born. The Spartans won that game and two more, including Wednesday’s 11-8 comeback victory over defending regional champ St. Laurence. That sent Marian (14-9) into the regional title game at noon Thursday against Mount Carmel (9-4-1), a 14-2 winner over Oak Forest in the second semifinal.
Alexander Wail was originally due on July 27, but the date was moved back and his dad hopes it’s for the best. “If it happened next week, maybe I wouldn’t be around (to coach),” Wail said.
Playoff success hasn’t been easy to come by at Marian, which last won an IHSA regional in 1987 and hadn’t won more than one game in a summer or spring regional since Wail took over in the summer of 2008.
“This is big for us,” he said, especially since the Spartans have been without hard-throwing lefty and Arizona State recruit Brett Lilek, who has other commitments.
Marian teams of years past might not have been able to advance without their best players, but things have changed.
“We’ve got a really deep junior class,” Wail said. “The last couple years we’ve had some (good) guys and the bench (wasn’t) very talented. We haven’t had a lot of depth. This year, we had so much depth; with guys missing we have guys filling in spots.”
The Spartans also have been preparing for the transition next year to the new BBCOR metal bats that are designed to perform more like wood than like traditional metal bats. “We’ve been using wood and BBCOR all summer,” Wail said. “Maybe that helped them out.”
Marian won Wednesday’s games with its offense, as all nine starters had at least one hit, one run or one RBI. The leaders were Patrick Swanson (3-for-3, 2 walks, 2 runs), Rob Cifelli (2-for-4, 2 runs), Jake Lorenz (1-for-4, walk, 2 runs, RBI) and Eric Callighan (2-for-4, 2 doubles, run, RBI).
Swanson figured he was just doing his job from the No. 2 spot. “I try to get on base as much as I can, be aggressive,” he said. “A hit-by-pitch is as good as a hit.”
Marian rallied from 1-0 and 5-4 deficits before finally going ahead in the top of the seventh, scoring three times after the first two batters we retired to break an 8-8 tie. Lorenz tripled home the first two runs and scored on the play when the relay was off target.
Ryan Waaso, the third of four Marian pitchers, was the winner and Chris Molyneaux retired the only two batters he faced for the save. Dan Cronin (4-for-5, 2 runs, RBI) led St. Laurence.
Mount Carmel 14, Oak Forest 2: The Caravan spotted Oak Forest a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but went ahead with three runs in the bottom of the inning and broke the game open with a nine-run third.
Leadoff man Jerrry Houston (3-for-4, 2 runs, 4 RBI) doubled home two runs in the third and hit a two-run homer in the fourth, while Josh Gaal slugged a three-run homer in the third and Tom Hayes finished 3-for-3 with a double and three runs.
Getting to the final in timely fashion was job one for the Caravan on a day when temperatures were in the high 90s with a heat index of well over 100.
“We were driving here and I was looking at one of the banks’ temperature (signs). It said, ‘99,’” Gaal said. “I don’t know if that was correct, but it was too hot to play way too long.”
Jeremy Kravetz went the distance in the five-inning game, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out seven.
“Jeremy is tough,” Houston said. “He was able to put the ball in play, get a lot of ground balls, a lot of popups and that’s what we needed.”