Jerry Houston's decision to throw to third rather than first had a make-or-break feel to it.
The bang-bang play went the Mount Carmel shortstop's way — and a long way toward making the Caravan baseball program state champions for the first time.
Houston squashed a Libertyville threat in the bottom of the fifth and ignited a two-run sixth as Mount Carmel defeated Libertyville 2-1 in the Class 4A final Saturday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Jeremy Kravetz (9-3) pitched his fourth postseason gem and Jason Gasser, who helped the Caravan win the Class 8A football state title last fall, doubled home Houston with the go-ahead run as Mount Carmel (34-8) became just the third school to win titles in both sports in the same school year.
Belleville Althoff pulled off the football-baseball double in 1990-91, and Addison Driscoll in 1991-92., according to the Illinois High School Association's website.
"It's the greatest year of my life," Gasser said. "We did something in baseball that's never been done, winning our first state championship. It's just been unbelievable. I can't even describe the feeling right now. I'm just so proud of my teammates, coaches and fans for supporting us."
Libertyville right-hander Nate Cote kept Mount Carmel off-balance and might have suffered a different fate had two Wildcats' runners not been thrown out at third base.
The first came on a botched suicide squeeze with one out in the fourth, and there was nobody out an inning later when Houston chose to throw to third on a chopper up the middle.
"I saw the guy in front of me take off and I was like, 'Hey, we might have a play,' " Houston said. "We can't let them get the first run, so why not go after it?"
Houston was positioned close to second base because Mount Carmel expected Libertyville (28-12-1) to bunt.
"We hit the ball up the middle and he happens to be standing there," Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said. "It was a bang-bang play. It is part of the game. We had other opportunities. We had a chance to squeeze a run in and we hiccup there.
"I couldn't be more proud of our kids. If you're going to tell me we're going to get this far and lose to a school from 26 different zip codes, I'll say I like that fight. We outhit them, outpitched them and made one more error. We were in position to win and it didn't go our way."
Player of the game: Jeremy Kravetz, Mount Carmel, 7 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 4 SO, 0 BB.
Key performers: Libertyville — Nate Cote, 6 IP, 2 R, 4 H; Justin Guarnaccio, RBI single. Mount Carmel — Jason Gasser, 2-for3, 1 RBI, 1 run.