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Baseball: Resilient Spartans rally late, force tie v. Mount Carmel

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

Oak Lawn has built the confidence to know it can rally from a big deficit.

“Usually in those types of innings, when we’re down, it just takes one man to get on base and then we all rally off each other,” senior second baseman Steven Hebel said after the Spartans battled to a 6-6 tie with Mount Carmel on April 20. “Whatever it takes, we have to get on base. We have to put the ball in play and force them to make plays and when they don’t, we score runs and that’s when we get hyped.”

The Spartans had a lot to be hyped about after rallying four runs in the seventh inning to force the deadlock with the Caravan.

The game was called after seven innings because of darkness, but the tie felt like a rewarding result for the Spartans (9-4-1), who trailed 5-0 entering the sixth inning.  They felt like it earned them some respect, as well.

“We know teams like [Mount Carmel] are looking down on the name ‘Oak Lawn,’” Hebel said. “History is history but today is a new day, and in a game like this we have to come out and show these teams what we can do.”

Both teams missed opportunities to win the game in the seventh inning.

The Spartans’ big rally started with a pinch-hit double by John Marchetti, who moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-3.

Austin Zernia was hit by a pitch before Ayham Salah and Ivan Gonzalez came up with back-to-back singles to load the bases for Hebel, who ripped a two-run single to left to cut the deficit to one.

An error then led to the tying run.

“We had a rough game (in a 4-2 loss to Shepard on April 19), and in this game we had opportunities to really get down on ourselves and we didn’t,” Oak Lawn coach William Gerny said. “I told them that’s what I was most proud of. They kept battling back. I was happy.”

The Spartans had the go-ahead run at third with one out, but Mount Carmel reliever TJ Boyd wiggled out of trouble.

Oak Lawn reliever Nate Coghill did the same thing in the bottom of the seventh.

The Caravan (14-4-1) loaded the bases with one out, but Coghill got consecutive flyouts to end the inning and the game was called.

It made for a frustrating result for Mount Carmel.

“This was definitely not how we wanted it to go, but it happens,” Mount Carmel senior catcher Colin Horneman said. “It’s baseball. We know we need to get on teams early going forward, get a lead and then play good defense and not give up walks.”

Horneman, who is leading the Caravan with 24 RBIs, ripped a two-run double to left-center as part of a three-run third inning.

“I was just sitting fastball,” Horneman said. “I knew he was going curveball first pitch so I watched that. Next pitch, I was sitting fastball, got it and took it the other way. That’s basically what I do is hunt the fastball and try to get it early on, not get too deep into the count.

“I think it boosts up the team a lot, seeing the ball get hit in the air and into the gaps. It brings energy to the dugout.”

Brandon Rogers was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for the Caravan.

Salah and Gonzalez each went 2-for-4 for Oak Lawn, who hope the comeback provides some confidence.

“To come back against a team like this is going to help in the long run,” Hebel said. “On a Saturday in a regional game, I think we’ve got a shot.”

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