Taking the mound to start the sectional semifinal against Mt. Carmel, Br. Rice senior Arturo Mora quickly gave up back-to-back singles.
That brought Mora a bit of deja vu.
Earlier this season, the senior started against the Caravan and gave up back-to-back singles as part of a 3-run first.
However, this time was different.
Pitching around those early hits, Mora gave up one more hit the rest of the way in pitching a complete-game effort in host Br. Rice’s 5-1 victory on June 9 over Mt. Carmel in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
“Once I got out of that first inning unscathed, I thought ‘OK, this is over.’ That first game started the same way,” Mora said. “My team had my back, and I had theirs. It went both ways.”
Br. Rice advanced to play Hinsdale Central on June 11, winning 6-2 for the sectional title.
The Crusaders advanced to play Plainfield East on June 14, after press time, in the Standard Bank supersectional with a state semifinal berth on the line.
Against Mt. Carmel, Mora earned the complete-game win, allowing 1 run on 3 hits with a walk and a strikeout. The Triton Junior College recruit retired the last 10 batters he faced.
Relying on a two-seam fastball and a deep arsenal of off-speed pitches, Mora trusted the defense behind him, and the Crusaders delivered, making just 1 error in the infield.
“As a pitcher, you’re going to have your days with strikeouts,” Mora said. “Against Loyola, I had 11 over 5 innings. There are days like today where I’ve got to keep it low, let them put it in play and trust my defense. They made all the plays today.”
Pitching in hot, humid and sunny conditions, Mora said he struggled early to find a rhythm.
Then, after using a rosin bag to wipe away the sweat from his hands, the senior righty was aces.
Senior shortstop Luke Lawrence knew Mora would deliver.
“I trust Arturo 100 percent. He’s an amazing pitcher, and I love when he’s up there,” Lawrence said. “I’m confident that he’ll get a groundball or popout and our defense will make the play and get the job done.”
Mora gave up a run in the third on a walk, error and single but induced a groundout to end the threat. He hit a batter over the final 4 innings, but no other Caravan runners reached base.
Br. Rice Coach Sean McBride loved how Mora performed in the spotlight.
Mora transferred to Br. Rice from Bogan after his sophomore year.
“No fear, we were saving him for this game,” McBride said. “He’s our guy, and he’s proven that with his performance all year. He battles, and he’s a tough kid.”
After pitching out of the jam in the first inning, Mora watched as the Crusaders scratched a run across in the bottom half.
Sophomore catcher Zion Rose drew a walk to lead off, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error.
Lawrence hit a groundout to short to bring Rose home.
Lawrence, a Webster University recruit, added a RBI single in the fourth and sixth innings as Br. Rice extended its lead.
“I was seeing the ball really well,” Lawrence said. “We get on base and top to bottom, we hit. Even on off days, we find a way to get it done, move guys over and get them in.”
Rose (2 stolen bases, run), Will Flanigan (RBI) and Nick Daugherty (2 walks) chipped in offensively. Bryce Nevils, Nate Mosqueda and Conor Durkin scored a run each.
For Mt. Carmel, junior Marcus Milianti had a RBI single. Jorge Vazquez (run, walk) and Austin Mallee had a single each for the Caravan.
Mt. Carmel consistently hit the ball hard, but it was right at the Br. Rice defense.
“That’s baseball. That’s the way it goes,” said Mt. Carmel Coach Brian Hurry. “We had some hard outs, but that’s the nature of the game. I’m really proud of the guys. I’m excited for the group we have returning next year.”
Junior lefty Shane Curtin threw 6 innings, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits and 6 walks with 6 strikeouts.
Mt. Carmel finished the season 22-11.
Hurry saw big-time development from his athletes during the 2021 season.
“From our first game in the Stevie’s Way tournament to now, the team got a lot better. That’s a testament to them coming in every day and working,” Hurry said. “It’s a tribute to my coaching staff for getting these guys as good as they could be in the end.”