Mundelein had Libertyville slugger Evan Skoug played perfectly again, and the Mustangs had another quality opponent right where they wanted them.
When shortstop Derek Parola scooped Skoug's sharply hit groundball up the middle and beat the speedy Jimmy Govern to the second-base bag for a game-ending forceout with two runners on, Mundelein had capped a stunning 8-1 win in Saturday's Class 4A sectional final at Glenbrook South.
Parola tossed his glove high in the air, leapt and chest-bumped third baseman Luke Peterson, and the Mustangs celebrated wildly in the infield. They trailed the top-seeded Wildcats 1-0 heading into the top of the seventh.
"I saw (Govern) coming and I was scared because I knew Skoug got down the line pretty fast," Parola said after going 4-for-5, giving him 7 hits in the two sectional games in Glenview. "If I didn't get Jimmy, the bases were loaded. (After every win), Luke and I always chest-bump. That one was probably my favorite one of the year."
No. 3 Mundelein (36-2), which set the school record for wins in the sectional semifinal against Glenbrook South, advances to Monday's 6 p.m. Rockford Aviators supersectional against Prairie Ridge (23-16). A win will put the Mustangs in the company of the 1978 and 2002 teams that are only ones from their school to advance to state.
Mundelein has not lost since suffering a 3-1 defeat to Libertyville on May 6 (14 straight wins).
"I knew we were going to battle to the end," said coach Todd Parola, whose Mustangs beat their rival for the second time in three meetings. "It's what this group has done all year. We've had a lot of come-from-behind (wins), 2-3 walk-off wins. This senior group has done that since freshman year."
Libertyville, which lost to Mt. Carmel 2-1 in last year's state championship game, finished 33-6. The Texas Christian-bound Skoug ended his great four-year varsity career by going 0-for-3. He flew out to the warning track in center field, walked and lined out to left, before hitting into the game-ending fielder's choice.
The Wildcats managed just 4 hits (all singles) off winning pitcher Michael Metz.
"I hit two balls where they put a perfect shift on, playing me deep, shifting over into left-center," Skoug said. "(Metz) was lights out, but we should have put better at-bats together. We should have hit him."
Using a good breaking ball that helped him get big outs when he needed them, Libertyville starting pitcher Andrew Mack took a 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh. But Mundelein, which twice left the bases loaded and stranded two more runners in the sixth, did not go quietly.
The Mustangs' first seven batters reached and 12 batters later, Mundelein had 8 runs on the board.
"I knew our top of the lineup was coming up, and our top of the lineup has done a lot of magic this year," said leadoff hitter Metz, who started the rally. "We've come back and won in the seventh inning more than once this year, and today was no different. As soon as I got on base, it was just a hit parade."
After Metz led off the seventh with a single into right field, and Parola reached on an infield chopper, Libertyville coach Jim Schurr went to his bullpen.
"I thought Andrew Mack pitched a stellar game," Schurr said. "(Mundelein) did not barrel a baseball up until we made a pitching change. They didn't hit the ball hard once. Even the times when they had guys on base, (the hits) were tap shots, balls hugging the line eating our third baseman up. (Mack) did everything we could possibly ask of a pitcher to put us in a position to be in a ballgame."
Schurr replaced Mack with lefty Ian Grant, who surrendered a single to Logan Reckert (2-for-4), loading the bases. Lefty-hitting cleanup hitter Luke Adams then singled to center, tying the score at 1-1, as the noise in Mundelein's dugout continued to escalate.
"When we played them at our place, when we brought in a lefty (Patrick Wales), they struggled with it," Schurr said of his decision to lift Mack.
After Adams' hit, Schurr called on righty Adam Formento, who surrendered a 2-run double down the left-field line to Peterson (2-for-4), giving Mundelein five straight hits in the inning. The Wildcats intentionally walked Ryan Hollander, loading the bases for Reese Dolan, whose single made it 4-1.
After a strikeout, Sam Osisek hit a flair into shallow right for an RBI single. A fielder's choice kept the bases loaded for Parola, who all but put the game away with a triple to the fence in right-center.
Metz put two runners on base in the bottom of the seventh but finished the complete-game effort, which was his second win over Libertyville this season. The 5-foot-10 righty struck out eight, walked four and hit two. Govern was 2-for-4 for Libertyville.
The only run Metz allowed was unearned.
"One of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen on the mound," Derek Parola said of his teammate. "When the ball is in his hand, you know you're going to have a good game."
"I had already seen their lineup for a full game, so I knew the in's and out's of that offense," Metz said. "Today I knew what I was trying to do, and I did it. I got my breaker over, and when I pitched ahead, most of the time I got a strikeout or groundout."
The Wildcats got their only run in the third. After Conor Simpson led off with an infield single, he stole second, raced to third when the throw bounced into the outfield and scored when the ball was bobbled.
"We didn't put the ball in play enough to create some of the opportunities that this funny game will provide you," Schurr said. "I told our kids that. I said, 'You know what? If we would have won this game, I would have gone to mass four times tomorrow.' "