PEORIA - A Day 1 dream became a reality for Lisle's baseball team Saturday night as the Lions hoisted the Class 2A state championship trophy after a 10-1 win over Pleasant Prairie.
"It's really not sinking in yet," senior center fielder Ryan Van Volkenburg said shortly after the final out was recorded, a hard ground ball to third baseman Brian Czyl, who threw a strike to Alex Sokolowski at first. "It feels great. It's an amazing feeling."
So, 98 days after first practices were held and Lisle coach Pete Meyer put a photo of Dozer Park, home of the Peoria Chiefs and home of the state finals, in front of his team and told them the goal was to get there, the Lions (23-10-1) end the season on top.
"This is the perfect way to end my senior year," said Alex Ventrella, who earned the pitching victory with five innings of work. "I couldn't think of a better way."
Ventrella had plenty of help from the offense, which laced seven hits and scored six runs in the bottom of the first. Kevin Coppin and Bailey Welch both drove in two runs, Welch with a two-out double to left field.
"That was huge," Ventrella said. "I was a little nervous at first, but then I was just able to go out and pitch to contact and let them put it in play instead of having to make the perfect pitch."
In terms of record the 2012 Lions outdid the current group with a 31-6 mark, but it's the 2013 squad that set the new standard for excellence for the program.
"I've said it a couple times — baseball's a funny game," Meyer said. "One year it's the most ruthless thing in the world. It's a single elimination tournament and you're out before the regional is over when you think you have a good chance. I think we learned from that type of thing.
"Last year a couple teams won state championships that weren't even .500 when the playoffs started. So I told the guys from the very first day, 'Anything can happen if you play this season for the playoffs.' They believed that and they worked so hard on it. Attitude and effort is what we ask of them. Attitude and effort will get you a long way in baseball and if life and that's what they believed in. They had the greatest attitudes, they put forth 100 percent all the time, they competed like champions and they are champions."