WESTERN SPRINGS — Lyons Township has already made the past two Class 4A baseball finals, including winning in 2011.
After the Lions won the summer state tournament, the expectations are just as high once again.
All-state returner Keith Lehmann will be LT’s ace and the most dangerous bat in the lineup. The Michigan-signee pitched three scoreless innings and went 2-for-4 with an RBI in a 2-0 win at Brother Rice on Saturday in the season opener.
Speedsters Stewart Nelson, an Evansville recruit, and Mike Lorenz, who will play at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., will also boost the lineup. Pitcher and first baseman Tom Prescott, headed for the University of Chicago, pitched four scoreless innings in the opener.
“Those four kids were starters last year so that’s our main nucleus,” said coach George Ushela.
Lehmann and Prescott will be the top two pitchers for the Lions, but Ushela had faith in the depth of his pitching staff.
Alex Vannucci is a senior lefty that will likely be used as the No. 3 and is headed to play for North Park. Hard-throwing senior Zach Carlson is back after sitting out the summer season because of a hamstring injury.
A pair of juniors, left-hander Max Larsen and Sam Heilenbach, will also see some innings. Heilenbach will also see time in the batting order thanks to his ability to play a number of different positions.
“We’ve got some decent kids after them,” Ushela said. “Our seven, eight, nine guys are probably pretty decent, but in the spring season you don’t use that many more.”
On offense, the four returning starters will be a big part of the lineup. Junior Sam Cybulski will also be a regular. The junior, who played on the basketball team, is a good athlete that can play second or third.
“We have very good team speed and we have a mix of righties and lefties,” Ushela said. “I believe we play pretty good defense. We’re a pretty solid team.”
To say the Lions are a solid team may be an understatement. The Lions are already receiving No. 1 rankings on the strength of returning talent, recent results and the summer title.
Ushela said his team is used to the pressure of high expectations.
“We’ve had a good tradition at LT in baseball,” he said. “I think they have some knowledge of it, but we pretty much ingrain it in them that you play one game at a time.
“We have a philosophy that we just want to be among the best and when you’re among the best that’s fine. We talk about how to stay among the best and that’s staying fundamental and staying within yourself. Do your talking on the field.”
Meet the Lions
Coach: George Ushela
2012 record: 27-13-1 (13-5 West Suburban Silver)
Keith Lehmann sr. 3B/P
Mike Lorenz sr. RF
Stewart Nelson sr. SS
Thomas Prescott sr. P/1B
Next game: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sandburg
37: Team-best RBIs for Keith Lehmann last season