LEMONT – For most of the 2013 season, Lemont’s powerful offense made life miserable for opposing pitchers.
On Saturday, the tables were turned.
Held without a hit by Joliet Catholic’s Sam Couch, the Indians saw their outstanding 2013 season come to an end with a 3-0 loss to the Hilltoppers in a Class 3A regional final.
“Everything he threw, we couldn’t touch it,” Lemont coach Brian Storako said. “He hit his spots and threw everything for a strike. We couldn’t put anything together.”
Lemont starting pitcher Jake Latz threw a great game of his own, striking out 12 while allowing just five hits in a complete-game effort. The junior was touched up for two runs in the opening inning and a single run in the second before shutting the door.
“You never think you are going to get no-hit,” the coach said. “Their pitcher is good, but I never thought he would get the best of us like that. He threw a lot of strikes; it was a 77-minute game.”
Arguably the two top teams in the Lincoln-Way West sectional, Lemont and Joliet Catholic, were forced to play each other so early in the playoffs because each individual regional was seeded and not the entire sectional.
But instead of using that as a source of frustration, Storako took the opposite approach.
“A team like that, you are going to have to play them at some point,” he said. “We were set up to do some damage, but it didn’t happen.”
Talking to a disappointed team afterward the game, Lemont’s first-year head coach had a message for the guys.
“Keep your heads up,” Storako said. “They worked hard and one game doesn’t define our team. We were still very successful. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to but unfortunately, only one team has it end the way they want.
“The underclassmen will be ready to go [next year] and the seniors will be successful in whatever they do.”
Lemont finished the season with a 23-7 record and a South Suburban Blue conference title
“I’m extremely happy,” he said. “Coming in, you are never sure what you are going to get. But the kids worked hard and were very receptive. All of us kind of had the same goal of where we wanted to be as a team.
“It was easy to jump in; it’s a bunch of good kids.”
The summer campaign is scheduled to start June 10 although the Indians are playing only 14 or 15 games.
“We are going with a little different approach,” Storako said, “with more workouts and less games. Basically, the kids will get a chance to play, and we will get a sense of what we have coming up. It’s an evaluation tool and we will use it to fine-tune some things. Also, we need to get the kids faster and stronger, so we are going to work out a lot.”
Lemont loses nine seniors to graduation but has a strong group coming back.
“I’m looking forward to having that junior class make their presence felt,” Storako said.