Oak Park-River Forest’s Nick Kowalczuk and Lyons’ Keith Lehmann have decided to follow similar college destinations to Michigan.
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:24PM
Nick Kowalczuk and Keith Lehmann have battled against each other several times as West Suburban Silver rivals. Now that they have decided to go to college together, the senior infielders might become roommates.
Lehmann, the ace of Lyons’ pitching staff and a third baseman, verbally committed August14 to play for Michigan in 2014. Kowalczuk, a first baseman and cleanup hitter, committed to Michigan August 5. Their decisions came as more of a coincidence. The pair have never played on the same offseason summer league team together, but are becoming quick friends after seeing each other at prospect showcases together at Midwest area locations.
“We’ve talked a lot,” Kowalczuk said. “We’ve decided to become roommates. I think it’s pretty cool [coming from rival teams].”
OPRF defeated Lyons 4-3 June 9 to win the Class 4A state championship at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Kowalczuk went 1-for-2 with a double and Lehmann went 0-for-3 with a run in the game.
Kowalczuk finished the season by batting .374 with 36 RBI while Lehmann hit .342 with seven home runs and 36 RBI.
Lehmann led Lyons to the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association’s Lawler Classic championship last month.
Choosing Michigan might have been tougher on Lehmann’s father, Art, a Michigan State graduate.
“I think he’s proud of me,” said Lehmann, a Western Springs resident. “It does not bother him.”
Lehmann visited Michigan with his father two weeks before making a commitment. Bakich was hired by Wolverines June 27 after coaching previously at Maryland.
“We checked the campus out. I knew they wanted me,” said Lehmann, who is undecided about a major. “I fell in love with it. With a whole new coaching staff, I liked it. It felt comfortable.”
“I like their whole philosophy,” said Kowalczuk, who hopes to study economics or finance. “It feels good for what I want. I know they want to win, but they are all good guys. The facilities were awesome.”
Both Kowalczuk and Lehmann wanted to make commitments before school starts this week. The pair do not play any other sports although Kowalczuk was a wrestler as a freshman.
Kowalczuk was recruited by Michigan State and actually considered the Spartans a finalist before going with Michigan. Lehmann said MSU showed an initial interest, but did not make a strong financial offer.
According to prepbaseballreport.com, Lehmann is ranked No. 5 among Illinois recruits from the Class of 2013. Kowalczuk is ranked No. 14.