Sabres change school’s fortunesStreamwood's Dalton Lundeen (#12) pitches during the second inning at Elgin High School in Elgin, Ill., on Thursday, May 26, 2011.
| Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: June 1, 2011 12:52AM
For most athletic programs, winning a regional championship is a nice accomplishment.
For Streamwood’s baseball team, winning a regional title represented a monumental occasion.
With a 5-4 victory in 11 innings against rival South Elgin in the title game of last week’s Class 4A Hoffman Estates Regional, the Sabres delivered a rare breakthrough in the state playoffs for their success-starved school.
The triumph marked the first regional title in the 32-year history of the baseball program, and it also ended nearly a decade of disappointment in high-profile sports at Streamwood.
Sure, the school’s bass fishing team won a sectional in 2010, its cheerleading team won a sectional in 2009 and its girls bowling team won a sectional in 2004. But when it comes to sports that really move the needle in terms of widespread recognition, the Sabres haven’t had much to boast about lately.
Streamwood’s last appearance in the state football playoffs came in 2002, and its boys basketball team hasn’t won a regional since 2000. The regional title drought is even longer for the school’s softball (1993), girls volleyball (1988) and girls basketball (1988) teams.
Now that the baseball team has raised the bar with a record-breaking 2011 season, the hope is that the good vibes will spread to other Sabres athletic programs.
“Winning is contagious within a school,” said Streamwood senior Josh Harris, who in addition to being a star left-handed pitcher also played basketball. “Through our four years we seniors had gone to five or six regional championship games in different sports and lost them all. That was heartbreaking for us, but it made us work so much harder.
“We knew leading up to this baseball season we’d had some failures so we wanted to turn that around, and hopefully this turns it around for years to come.”
Next up for Streamwood (28-6) is Wednesday’s showdown against Rockford Boylan (26-5) in the semifinals of the Class 4A DeKalb Sectional.
In addition to winning the program’s first regional title, the 2011 Sabres also set a team record for wins and earned a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title for their first-ever league championship. All this came on the heels of a second-place finish in last summer’s Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association summer tournament, but the team is well aware that even greater accomplishments are there for the taking.
“After beating South Elgin and getting that first plaque, that was a big monkey off their back,” Streamwood coach Steve Diversey said. “I think it gave these guys a whole lot of bounce in their step and a lot of confidence, even more than what we gained in the summer.
“Last summer was huge, but nothing was validated until you win in the season that truly counts. These guys think they can accomplish anything now.”
Harris is one of several multi-sport athletes playing major roles for Streamwood’s baseball team. Senior first baseman Bobby Post also played basketball and garnered All-UEC River honors.
Junior left fielder Alex Morrow was the leading rusher for Streamwood’s football team last fall, and junior pitcher Dalton Lundeen plays quarterback for the Sabres and was a contributor on the basketball team.
Other multi-sport athletes on the baseball squad include senior Nick Pryor (football), junior Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle (basketball), senior Dominick Tatone (bowling) and sophomore Zach Harris (basketball).
While stressing that each sport has its own circumstances, Diversey said he hopes the baseball team’s example of year-round hard work rubs off on other programs.
That mentality certainly seems to have had an impact on Morrow, who will be one of the area’s top returning football and baseball players next year.
“Baseball has been the first sport to really make steps toward making progress here at Streamwood,” Morrow said. “It’s really been a wonderful thing to see, and we hope to use this momentum and take it into football next year as motivation.”