It was bound to happen sooner or later.
Just enough offense was going to come together for either Carmel or Marian Catholic. And Chris Austin was going to win a game for his team.
As it turns out, both happened at the same time in Marian Catholic's 1-0 extra-innings victory Saturday morning over the host Corsairs in the first game of an East Suburban Catholic Conference doubleheader.
With one out in the top of the ninth inning of a scoreless game in which there weren't even many serious threats to score, Austin found just the right pitch. The tiny Marian Catholic leftfielder and No. 9 hitter smacked a hard grounder up the middle to score teammate Mark Diluia, who had reached after getting hit by a pitch.
It was the first time in Austin's career that he had driven in a winning run.
"I've never done this before, so this feels really good," Austin said after his only hit in three at-bats. "I'm usually the guy who just gets on base for the big (hitter) guys.
"This was fun. This is why you play the game. I love this. I love this situation. Of course, you're nervous because you want to come through, but at the end of the day, this is why we play and it's great."
Austin's RBI single finally put a dent into a classic pitchers' duel.
Aces Brice Hennessy of Marian Catholic and Quinten Sefcik of Carmel were methodically mowing down batters and staying out of trouble.
Hennessy completed nine full innings and finished at about only 90 pitches. He had just 5 strikeouts, but he gave up only 4 hits and only once did a Carmel base runner advance beyond second.
"(Hennessy) is a horse and he can (go extra innings)," said Marian Catholic coach Phil Wail, whose team moved to 10-7 overall and 2-1 in the ESCC. "And he can throw all three pitches for strikes, which he did today. He kept (Carmel) off-balance. And he's still able to keep his pitch count down."
Meanwhile, Sefcik, a senior who has already signed with Illinois, threw eight complete innings before being taken out due to a pitch count that had reached nearly 120. He remained strong from start to finish, though, and left the game with 12 strikeouts. He allowed only 5 hits.
Sefcik was replaced by Dalton Wright, who hit the first batter he faced and then gave up two consecutive singles, one of which was Austin's RBI single up the middle. Wright is now 1-3 on the mound.
"This is a tough game especially because Quinten goes out and gives us an A-Number-1 start," said Carmel coach Dann Giesey, whose team drops to 12-7-1 and is still seeking its first conference win (0-3). "He still had plenty to give us, but we had to take him out because he was at 117 and it's a long season and you want to make sure you take care of the kid first.
"We would have loved to put him back out there (for the ninth), he was pitching so well. And he wanted to go. But the kid and his health has got to come first, no matter how much you want to win a game."
According to Giesey, the Corsairs are going to need to be more consistent to start winning games again. He says they've fallen into a pattern lately where the pitching is good in one game, but the hitting is not, or vice versa.
Against Marian Catholic, Carmel couldn't muster a hit over the final four innings, and took five strikeouts over that period.
"It was frustrating (to not get the run support), but I'm a part of the offense too," said Sefcik, who hits in the two-spot for Carmel and went 0-for-4 against the Spartans. "The whole team is struggling right now. It's tough. But we should bounce back soon.
"(Hennessy) pitched good. He hit his spots, the wind was blowing in and we gave him a lot of easy outs. We weren't hitting anything hard. We just struggled."
In the second game of the double header, Carmel shut out Marian Catholic 5-0.
Pitcher Jordan Fuller went 7 innings and rolled up 7 strikeouts while allowing just 1 walk.
Fuller is now 2-1 on the mound for the Corsairs.