Before Mark DiLuia walked to the plate with two runners on, two out in the last inning, and his team down two runs, his coach had some advice.
“I get the chills just thinking about it,” Marian Catholic High School Coach Tony DeCarlo said. “I’ll never forget what I told him. I said, ‘Hey, we don’t need a home run right now but if you hit one it’d be pretty cool.’”
Demonstrating tremendous coachability, DiLuia lofted the second pitch of the at-bat over the center field fence to give Marian Catholic a 4-3 2016 regional semifinal win over rival Homewood-Flossmoor.
He calls the home run one of the highlights of his baseball career.
“It was by far one of the best feelings of my life, beating our rival school at their field and giving us another chance in the playoffs,” DiLuia said.
DiLuia, a native of Flossmoor, Illinois and now a senior at Marian Catholic, signed on Nov. 9 to play for Maryland as a member of the 2017 recruiting class.
— Mark DiLuia (@MDiLuia24) November 9, 2016
He’ll be a pitcher with the Terrapins but DeCarlo thinks his home run in last year’s playoffs is still instructive as to the type of player DiLuia is.
“The way he handles pressure is amazing,” said DeCarlo, who is entering his third season as head coach at Marian Catholic. “Whether he’s on the mound or at the plate, he’s extremely clutch in both situations and what an attribute to have on your team as a coach with a kid like that.”
DiLuia said he signed with Maryland not only because of baseball but also because of everything the campus has to offer.
“When I was going through the process, everyone with me during the whole thing was telling me to decide what school I want to go like if I was just going there to be a regular student and find the place that feels like home,” DiLuia said.
He found that place in College Park.
“Maryland was the perfect place,” he said. “I loved the coaches, I loved the players and what they’re all about and I felt like I could make a difference there right away.”
The 18-year old DiLuia also said being a student-athlete is key for him and, since he plans to major in something in the business field, the prestige of the Robert H. Smith School of Business was important.
“One day baseball’s going to come to an end, whether it’s in five years or 10 years or 20 years, you need to have that education because you never know when you might need to use it,” he said.
The right-handed DiLuia stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and Prep Baseball Report ranked him No. 11 in the Illinois class of 2017.
He throws a fastball that is usually 86-88 mph, a change-up, and a slider, according to PBR. PBR scouts said the slider has “tight, sweeping action” and he “consistently showed an advanced feel” for it in 2015.
DiLuia said he’s been working to improve his control before his senior season starts.
“It’s just been working on my command of all three of my pitches, trying to get that confidence to where I can throw them anytime,” he said.
DiLuia said he started playing baseball “as soon as I can remember” and first played on an organized team when he was a 6-year-old member of the Flossmoor Firebirds.
He said the camaraderie with the teams he’s played on is one of his favorite aspects of baseball but he also enjoys the loneliness of the pitcher’s mound.
“It feels good having control of every play out there,” DiLuia said of pitching. “I kind of like the pressure that everyone puts on you and I like being quote, unquote ‘The Man’ out there on the field.”
DeCarlo said DiLuia is “obviously extremely talented” but touts his makeup as well.
“I can sit here all day and tell you great things about him,” DeCarlo said. “Extremely hard-working kid who’s just a pleasure to have on a team, so I know he’s going to do a lot of great things at Maryland.”