Defending champ Lyons punches ticket back to Joliet

By Drake Skleba

CRESTWOOD – They’re back.

After an up-and-down season, defending Class 4A champion Lyons Township punched its ticket back to Joliet after eking out a hard-fought 3-2 over Marist in the Standard Bank Stadium Super-Sectional on Monday night.

The Lions (26-12-1) now advance to play Minooka (26-13) on Friday at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field.

Junior Keith Lehmann, who shut down Mount Carmel last Saturday in the sectional final, got the Lions roaring on Monday. With nobody out Lehmann hammered a booming two-run double, which plated senior Evan Booth (3-for-4, 2R), who had doubled and Illinois State-bound Steve Heilenbach, who had walked, for a quick 2-0 lead.

In the second, Lehmann struck again with a clutch two-out RBI single, plating Booth again who had singled for a 3-0 lead.

“I can't describe how great this is and for being able to play with this wonderful team,” said Lehmann. “I was hitting well early in the day. I picked up the ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. I got a couple of good fastballs and hit the ball hard.”

Lion starting pitcher right-hander Matt Robare showed a masterful Houdini act pitching out of two bases-loaded situations in the first and second to keep the Redhawks off the board. Robare would strand a seventh Redhawk base runner in the third inning.

“Unbelievable. This hasn't been done very often,” said Robare. “To overcome all of the inconsistencies that we went through during the season and then come together and get back to Joliet is unbelievable.”

Marist's University of Notre Dame-bound lefty staring pitcher Mike Hearne settled down and shutout the Lions the rest of the game. Hearne (9-5) allowed three runs and six hits in his complete-game effort. Hearne struck out six.

Heilenbach replaced Robare in the fourth. With the bases loaded and no outs

Hearne hit a roller to Lehmann who fired the ball past Lion senior C Brad Taylor and two Redhawk runs scored. Heilebach bore down and pitched out of any further trouble.

In the sixth, after two outs, Marist senior shortstop Ryan Meyer and junior Ryan Polak singled off Heilenbach. Heilenbach picked up the third out on a grounder to short to preserve the Lion lead.

In the seventh, Heilenbach (5-4) quickly dispatched the 'Hawks in order, striking out the final Marist batter, sending the huge Lyons Township contingent into orbit.
Standard Bank Stadium was packed to the rafters for this great game. 2,480 people witnessed two great Super-Sectional battles on Monday night at the home of the Windy City Thunderbolts.

“It's quite special to be returning. We have a chance to defend our state championship,” said Ushela. “The kids are confident and really want to repeat.

We really want to enjoy this. We're giving them the day-off tomorrow and then we'll get back to work on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Marist closes out a sensational 29-12 season for head coach Tom Fabrizio. The Redhawks defeated No. 3 Providence and No. 2 Lincoln-Way North to win the Andrew sectional championship to get to Crestwood. They battled the defending champs but fell one-run short."