Thu May 31, 2012
By Drake Skleba
CHICAGO – For the defending Class 4A state champion Lyons Township, beating Chicago Catholic League Blue Division teams is becoming old hat.
In 2011, the Lions beat No. 2 Mount Carmel and No. 1 Providence to bring back to Western Springs the Class 4A state championship trophy. On Wednesday at Haggerty Field in a Class 4A Mount Carmel Sectional semifinal, L-T was at it again, trouncing St. Laurence 8-3.
Illinois State-bound right-handed pitcher Steve Heilenbach launched a two-run bomb into the teeth of a strong wind blowing in from Lake Michigan to give the Lions a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Heilenbach (4-4) would go on to a fire a four-hitter at St. Laurence (30-7-1). Heilenbach fanned seven and walked five. The home-run was the seventh of the season for the future Redbird.
“We knew we were the underdog and played relaxed and played well,” said Heilenbach. “We wanted to get an early lead and I guessed fastball and really hit it well for the two-run homer in the third. I challenged the hitters and everything worked well for me on the mound. My change-up was my best pitch tonight and I spotted my fastball well tonight.”
St. Laurence sophomore Brad Wood would cut the Lion lead in half with an RBI single in the bottom half of the third. LT took a 2-1 lead into the fourth.
Lion lead-off man senior Evan Booth hammered a two-run shot in about the same spot his buddy Heilenbach had hit his, for a 4-1 Lion lead in the top of the fourth.
“We came in focused and relaxed and played our game,” said Booth. “I went up to the plate and had a good swing on a 2-0 pitch and thankfully it went out. We really enjoy playing the Catholic League teams and it should be a lot of fun on Saturday.”
The Lions put the game away with a four-spot in the fifth, highlighted by RBI singles from No. 8 hitter senior Blake Murray and No. 9 hitter junior Stewart Nelson. Booth plated the final run of the inning, driving home his third run of the game on a sac-fly.
The Vikings picked up a couple of unearned runs against Heilenbach in the bottom the fifth to conclude the scoring in the game.
“Steve pitched really well for us and has been on fire at the plate lately,” said Lyons Township head coach George Ushela. “Evan Booth has been hitting the ball well, too. We will have to play well on Saturday against either St. Rita or Mount Carmel.”
Up next for Lyons Township will be another CCL-Blue opponent on Saturday at 11, for the Mount Carmel Sectional Championship. The Lions will take on the winner of Thursday's battle between No. 6 Mount Carmel (31-5) and No.12 St. Rita (25-12). Yours truly will be at Haggerty for all of the action beginning at 4:30