Baseball: Defending champ Lyons knocks out Mount Carmel
Updated: June 2, 2012 10:09PM
Coming into the Class 4A baseball playoffs with a 21-12-1 record, Lyons might not have seemed like a good bet to defend its state championship.
But four wins later, the Lions are looking a lot more like a title contender.
Staked to a five-run lead before he took the mound, Lyons righty Keith Lehmann threw a five-hitter Saturday in a 9-1 win over the host Caravan in the Class 4A Mount Carmel Sectional final.
Lyons (25-12-1) plays Marist (29-11) in a 7:30 p.m. supersectional Monday at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. The winner moves on to the Class 4A semifinals next weekend at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
“We just decided that we can play with anybody in the state,” Lehmann said of the Lions’ late-season surge. “We’ve just got to play our game and we’ll go far.”
Lyons’ game is pitching and more pitching. Lehmann is 9-2 after shutting down a potent Caravan lineup, and he’s not the only quality arm on the staff.
“We’ve got three solid pitchers and two lefties in the ‘pen,” Lyons coach George Ushela said. “We go six deep. ... We were ranked early in the year on (the strength of) our pitching. Our bats have started to come around.”
And everyone’s on the same page, according to the coach.
“We had our ups and downs, we had some team issues,” Ushela said. “It was a group that wasn’t quite on board all the time. It’s kind of like a horse race. I had to use a whip a lot the whole race.
“Usually in a horse race, you use a whip at the end. We’ve been using it all along. They’ve responded and I haven’t had to use the whip in a while.”
All Ushela had to do in the early going on Saturday was watch and wave runners around third base.
Facing Mount Carmel ace Tyler Laurisch (10-4), who had thrown 20 pitches in Friday’s semifinal win over St. Rita, the Lions went to work right away. Evan Booth led off the game by getting hit by a pitch, Steve Heilenbach singled and Lehmann had an RBI single.
Matt Robare (2-for-2, double, two RBI) then doubled for a 2-0 lead. One out later, Brad Taylor singled in another run and Mike Lorenz hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. Two more singles followed, the last by Stewart Nelson driving in the fifth run.
All that scoring made Lehmann’s job easy. “I knew they were a very good team,” he said of the Caravan. “I was obviously a little nervous but our guys just played well. The first inning was a nice cushion so I got to settle down on the mound.”
Robare had an RBI single to make it 6-0 in the second. The Lions pushed the lead to 8-0 in the third, scoring on Heilenbach’s RBI single and a passed ball.
Meanwhile, Lehmann didn’t give up a baserunner till Laurisch singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth. He came around to score the Caravan’s only run on Justin Gonzalez’s double and Sam Kint’s sacrifice fly.
“They jumped on us early and we could just never get out of that hole,” Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry said. “Against a tough pitcher like they have, it’s even tougher.
“We’ve seen a lot of good pitchers and he’s as good as anybody we’ve seen.”
“Keith’s our ace,” Robare said. “He just mows people down. He gets a lot of ground balls, keeps the ball low in the zone. It’s a lot of fun to play defense behind him.”
Lehmann (2-for-3, double, two RBI) doubled home Lyons’ final run in the sixth.