Baseball: Max Larsen leads Lyons to summer title

Story Image Lyons Township third baseman Keith Lehmann puts the tag on Joliet Catholic's Brock Pluth during the first inning of their summer league state championship baseball game at Benedictine University in LisleThursday, July 26, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: July 26, 2012 10:30PM

Max Larsen won MVP awards each of the past two seasons for Lyons’ lower-level baseball programs.

On Thursday night, the rising junior showed he’s ready for the big stage as well.

Larsen pitched five-hit ball over six innings and drove in three runs as Lyons beat Joliet Catholic 7-3 at Benedictine University in Lisle to win the unofficial summer state title.

Tourney MVP Mike Lorenz and Tom Prescott added two hits each for the Lions (32-4-1), who won the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Phil Lawler Summer Classic for the fourth time since 2002. Earlier in the day, Lyons edged Jacobs 5-4 in eight innings and Joliet Catholic beat St. Laurence 7-4 in semifinal action.

Larsen worked out of a two-on, none-out jam in the first inning and survived a three-run second that gave the Hilltoppers (19-4) a brief 3-2 lead. From the third through the sixth, he gave up no runs on two hits.

“I don’t overpower a lot of people so I was going to try to hit my spots and mix up the speeds,” said Larsen, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound lefty.

A talk with assistant coach Andy Miller after the second inning got Larsen on the right track. Miller noticed Larsen’s tempo was off. “I had to work fast, because that’s what I like to do,” Larsen said. “I started throwing strikes and I got zoned in.”

He never lost focus at the plate. Larsen’s first hit of the game, an RBI single to center in the first, made it 2-0 and his second, an RBI single to right in the third, tied the score 3-3. Sam Cybulski’s groundout drove in Sam Heilenbach with the go-ahead run and the Lions scored on an error to complete a three-run inning and put Lyons up 5-3.

That was enough of a cushion for Larsen.

“He’s just a competitor,” Lyons coach George Ushela said. “He gets on the mound, he’s got some presence and he does a nice job.”

So does the Lyons defense.

“We hit some balls pretty hard,” Joliet Catholic coach Jared Voss said. “Lyons’ second baseman [Cybulski] was everywhere and that left fielder [Jim Pavlik] made some plays down the line.”

Prescott, who drove in a run in the first with a fielder’s choice, and Larsen had RBI singles in the seventh. Then Ushela brought in hard-throwing senior Keith Lehmann for the seventh, and he worked a scoreless, hitless inning to nail down another title for the Lions.

“It’s a special thing,” said Lorenz, whose brother Brian was the summer state tourney MVP when Lyons won its last title in 2006.

Brock Pluth went 1-for-2 with two walks and a two-run single in the second for Joliet Catholic, which was the only Class 3A team to make the eight-team summer state field.

Contributing: Tim O’Brien

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