Baseball: Lions to play Huskies for state championship
Lyons players celebrate their victory over Minooka. | Ray Luna~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2012 4:40PM
The memory of last year’s Class 4A baseball title run was a burden for Lyons Township — until a players-only meeting cleared the air and it wasn’t.
Now the Lions are one win away from being the first team to repeat as big-school state champ since Maine in 1958-59.
Keith Lehmann pitched a five-hitter and No. 9 hitter Stewart Nelson had a two-run single to break the game open as LT beat Minooka 6-2 Friday night in a Class 4A semifinal at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
The Lions (27-12-1) will play West Suburban Conference Silver Division rival Oak Park-River Forest (29-9-1) for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday. LT won the teams’ season series, two games to one.
But the regular season — and its ups and downs — seem like a long time ago for LT, which has won eight in a row.
“Halfway through the season, we had a little team meeting,” Lehmann said. “All the guys came together. We talked about how we have the talent in the state to to get back there and how there’s really no reason not to get back there because we can play with anyone in the state.”
“We played a little looser, too,” said leadoff hitter Evan Booth. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to start the season. It wore on us.
“We just started to have fun with it, because for a lot of our seniors, this is the last baseball we’ll be playing.”
LT took advantage of an uncharacteristically rough start for Minooka lefty Josh Jimenez (11-3), who was pitching on three days’ rest. He gave up five hits and four runs (just one earned) while walking two in 2 2/3 innings.
“I wasn’t tired,” Jimenez said. “I didn’t throw anyone but fastballs. … I couldn’t find my changeup or curve. You can’t get by in the state tournament with just fastballs.”
The Indians (27-13), who will play Grant (25-12) for third place at 3 p.m. Saturday, committed four errors.
“Obviously this is not the energy we wanted today,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “I’m kind of surprised how poorly or how tight we played early. … We hurt ourselves early and often.”
And LT capitalized. The Lions scored an unearned run on Jimenez’s two-out throwing error in the top of the first, but Minooka tied it on a bases-loaded double-play grounder in the bottom of the inning.
Booth’s RBI double to left-center in the second put LT up for good at 2-1. Nelson popped out attempting to bunt in the second, but delivered a two-run single in the third to make it 4-1.
After Minooka got a run back on Nick White’s sacrifice fly in the fourth, LT made it 6-2 in the fifth, scoring on an error and Lehmann’s RBI single. The junior was the only player in the game with more than one hit, finishing 2-for-3.
On the mound, Lehmann (10-2) struck out five and walked three. Steve Heilenbach (6-4) is the probable starter today vs. OPRF.