---- — Mt. Vernon's baseball team has met every challenge this season without blinking.
The Rams enter today's final four without any state final experience but don't be surprised if they aren't phased.
Each step of the way in the postseason the Rams have been prepared to meet the challenge. The same thing should happen when they take the field today against Joliet Catholic.
The Rams are fundamentally sound in every area and have coaches who can see even the tiniest of details.
Mt. Vernon coach Tim Holloway specifically scheduled a game each of the past four seasons at GCS Ballpark with the postseason in mind. He wanted his Rams to have experience playing in the park in case they would advance to the super sectional.
That precision has the Rams as close to the ultimate prize – a state title – as they have ever been in school history.
One of the key characteristics of the team, into addition to their cohesion, is their carefree nature. They never seem to be rattled. They don't let the biggest of moments dictate their style of play.
Rather they rely on their practice habits that have been honed over months and years. It's that confidence in their skills along with each other that allows them to joke with each other minutes before the opening pitch.
The team has a nickname for nearly every player on the team. They also can be heard shouting “get juiced” or “Rams rock” as they prepare for their first at-bat or get ready to run out on the field.
No doubt if you get close to the Rams dugout today before their game, you will hear a little laughter and a few jokes along with their signature phrases before the game starts.
Nothing seems to shake up this group of Rams. Not even the state final.
Paul Hines is the sports editor for the Register-News.