Mount Carmel relied on a powerful offense to reach the Class 4A state semifinals last year, and with players like Sam Kint and Jerry Houston swinging away, the Caravan should be a contender again in 2012.
Kint, a senior first baseman, is one of the top sluggers in Illinois after producing 12 home runs and 53 RBIs last year. At 6-foot-5, Kint brings a real intimidation factor to the batter's box, and his 12 homers tied a single-season school record. He is an ESPNHS All-State selection this year. Houston, a junior shortstop, hit .405 with three HRs, 37 RBIs and 47 runs a year ago. Also a skilled defender, Houston's all-around game makes him one of the state's best young players.
Senior Tyler Laurisch gives the Caravan a third stud in the lineup, as he hit at a .422 clip last year while driving in 30 runs. Together, Kint, Houston and Laurisch form the nucleus of what should once again be one of Illinois' top offenses.
Most of the question marks surround the team's pitching staff. Laurisch will attempt to step into the No. 1 spot in the rotation after going 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA last year. The right-hander struggled with control problems in 2011, walking 53 batters in 61.1 innings, so he'll have to improve his control in order to pitch like a true ace.
Behind Laurisch, senior left-hander Frank Kelly could take on a larger role after going 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 27.1 innings as a junior. Junior righty Jason Gasser could also earn significant innings.
If the Caravan sort out the pitching staff, another push deep into the state tournament is very possible. In addition to the Kint-Houston-Laurisch core, Mount Carmel also returns junior second baseman Beau Filkins (.324 BA, 24 RBIs, 24 R) and senior catcher Tom Hayes (.342 BA, four HRs, 33 RBIs).
Follow Mike Grimala on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).