When Libertyville baseball coach Jim Schurr asked for a show of hands, he got none.
Not a single one.
Contact information ( * required )
That's how much his players defied the odds during the summer state tournament. Heading into regional play this week on their own field, even the Wildcats wouldn't have betted on the Wildcats.
"We hadn't played many games all together this summer," Schurr said. "We had guys here, guys there. We had guys everywhere.
"We had guys playing Legion ball and travel ball. We were rarely together as a team. We just kind of finally melded everyone together for the tournament. So at the beginning (of the tournament), our guys weren't thinking that we'd do much, that we'd end up playing for a regional title."
And yet, the Wildcats did just that on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately for them, their pleasantly surprising tournament run ended with a 5-4 loss to Prairie Ridge that was decided in the most heartbreaking fashion.
Up 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, Libertyville, the visitor on the scoreboard, needed just three outs to secure the win as well as its second appearance in the Elite Eight of the summer state tournament in the last eight years.
But a few miscues and errant pitches gave top-seeded Prairie Ridge just the opening it needed to string together a few runs and escape with the victory.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats are trying to find solace in the fact that, on paper, they weren't ever expected to advance past the first round, let alone to the regional title game.
"It's very disappointing that things didn't work out for us," Schurr said. "We just didn't get it done. But the silver lining is what we were able to do once we all came together. We were playing a team in Prairie Ridge that entered the tournament with 25 wins and the No. 1 seed. We weren't supposed to get this far, and then be in a position to win at the end."
Libertyville defeated Mundelein, Crystal Lake South and Lake Zurich en route to the championship game. There were 25 teams in the regional and there were eight regionals across the northern third of the state. The eight regional champs will play for the summer state title next week at Benedictine College.
"In some ways, I think the summer state tournament is almost tougher than the state tournament in the spring, simply because of the format," Schurr said. "You're playing every day so you really have to have a deep pitching staff. You have to rely on all of your guys. In the spring, you can almost get through with two pitchers."
The Wildcats almost got through the regional championship with one pitcher, starter Kyle Cibrario. He went six full innings and held Prairie Ridge to a single run that was scored off of an error. Fatigued from the extreme heat, Cibrario spent the seventh inning on the bench.
The Wolves took advantage.
"That last inning was tough," Schurr said. "But it wasn't just that. We had other opportunities earlier in the game to score runs and build an even bigger lead and we didn't do it."