PEORIA – On the first day of the season, head coach Pete Meyer put a picture of Peoria’s Dozer Park in front of his team.
From that point on, the Lisle baseball team had the goal of reaching the state championship game and winning the title.
The Lions accomplished their goal Saturday night with a 10-1 win over Pleasant Plains in the Class 2A championship game.
“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.
“I was happy to get here, and after we won against Teutopolis [in the state semifinal] we knew we had a chance to win this thing. It’s feeling pretty good right now.”
So, 98 days after first practices were held and Coach Meyer showed his team that photo, the Lions (23-10-1) end the season on top for the first time in program history.
“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. It’s amazing.”
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 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 out-did 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 in life and that’s what they believed in. ... They competed like champions and they are champions.”