Baseball: Naperville Central’s Ian Lewandowski blanks top-ranked LyonsNaperville Central's Ian Lewandowski delivers a pitch against Lyons Township in Naperville on Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:36PM
Heading into his senior year, even before a single pitch had been thrown, Naperville Central right-hander Ian Lewandowski had March 29 circled on his calendar.
First-year Naperville Central coach Mike Stock let it be known early on to Lewandowski that he’d have the ball in his hands when Lyons, the defending Class 4A state champions, came calling.
The ultra-competitive Lewandowski certainly didn’t disappoint and showcased himself worthy of the challenge of facing the No.1-ranked Lions by going the entire way in the Redhawks’ 2-0 shutout victory Thursday in Naperville.
“At the beginning of the season, Coach [Stock] told me I’d be throwing against LT and I really wanted to pitch this game because, you know, they’re one of the top teams in the state,” Lewandowski said. “They won state last year and they’re always solid and a pretty good hitting team. I’ve been feeling really good.”
Coming into the game having only scored a combined six runs in three games, the single runs Naperville Central (2-2) put up in the first and second inning proved to be all the offense it would need behind Lewandowski.
Five days after getting stuck with a tough no-decision at Fremd after throwing five scoreless, no-hit innings, Lewandowski (1-0) fanned eight and scattered five hits while issuing two walks.
He gave up three singles in the first inning but got out of trouble himself, starting a 1-4-3 double play.
Given the potential momentum Lyons (3-1-1) may have gained from putting a couple runs on the board early, the Redhawks seized the momentum for themselves by getting on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first.
With one out, Bryce Kirk reached on an infield single before Lewandowski doubled him to third. Kirk would come home on a wild pitch from Lions’ starter, senior right-hander Steve Heilenbach.
Jeff Schank’s RBI single off Heilenbach in the second inning scored Redhawks junior second baseman Nick Lopez, who had singled to left before stealing second base and taking third when senior shortstop Nick Ryan struck out.
“It was huge. I always love to get some runs behind me, especially getting that run in the second — getting a two-run lead,” Lewandowski said of getting out of the first-inning jam and seeing his teammates provide him an early cushion. “That takes even more pressure off of you. With a solid defense, if you get one or two runs, especially with these new bats, you never know what could happen.”
Admitting a day earlier after watching his team lose 4-2 to Waubonsie Valley that the bottom of the order has to start giving his team better production, Stock saw the bottom third of the lineup combine for two hits, a stolen base and a run.
“Huge. You saw it. Right now, on days like [Thursday], two runs seem like much larger leads than two runs should seem like,” Stock said. “We have two very quality pitchers going and the third-base coach is a lonely position right now. You don’t get many kids over there [at this stage of the season].”
Like his counterpart on the mound, Lewandowski, the Illinois State-bound Heilenbach (0-1) went the distance for Lyons, giving up the two runs on four hits while striking out four in six innings.
“It was just a good pitchers’ day and they generated a couple runs. We just couldn’t put anything together,” Lyons coach George Ushela said. “We had some opportunities, but [Lewandowski] pitched [well].”