Lyons Township holds off late Simeon rally



By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

SUMMIT - Back on April 8, Louisville defeated Michigan 82-76 to win the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. At the Class 4A Argo Regional Championship Game on Saturday, another Michigan-Louisville confrontation took place.

With Lyons Township clinging to a 4-3 lead over Simeon, with two outs and two Simeon runners aboard, Louisville-bound centerfielder Corey Ray stepped into the batter’s box. On the mound for Lyons Township was Michigan-bound ace right-hander Keith Lehmann. With both dugouts alive and the large crowd abuzz, Lehmann induced Ray to hit a bouncer to senior first baseman Tom Prescott.

Prescott flipped the ball to Lehmann, who beat Ray to the bag by a step and the Lions were the 2013 Class 4A regional champs. It was only fitting that the PBR 2012 All-Staters would square-off against each other in the final confrontation of this thriller.

Lyons Township (25-10) picked up a pair of unearned runs in the second inning against Simeon sophomore right-hander Jamary McKinney (7-2). The inning was highlighted by an RBI single from senior shortstop Stewart Nelson.

“Keith kept his composure on the mound and pitched a good game for us,” said Nelson, an Evansville recruit. “I was very aggressive at the plate. I was hitting pitches early in the count which has been beneficial to my hitting recently.”

Lehmann was in complete control, allowing but a single with 11 strikeouts through six innings. The talented sophomore McKinney matched the future Wolverine pitch-for-pitch.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lion senior DH Zach Carlson hammered a shot over the right field fence to extend the LT lead to 3-0. The Lions would pick up another unearned run to take a 4-0 lead into the seventh

“I was trying to be aggressive and it felt good to hit the home-run,” said Carlson. “It was great to hang on and with Keith on the mound for us we were all really jacked-up.”

The Wolverine seventh started out innocently enough, as Lehmann retired senior Darien Clifton on a grounder to Nelson.

Lehmann then lost his control and loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two walks. Alcorn State-bound second baseman Robert Fletcher ripped an RBI single to left to bring home the first Wolverine run. Vanderbilt-bound third baseman Ronell Coleman coaxed a bases-loaded walk from Lehmann and it was 4-2. Eastern Illinois-bound shortstop Marshawn Taylor hit a deep sac-fly bringing the Wolverines within one at 4-3. The Lehmann-Ray encounter was to follow.

“I was having trouble spotting my fastball in the seventh due to a hole on the mound,” said Lehmann. “I kept stepping into it which caused my control trouble, although I want to tip my hat to Simeon. They are a fine club and did a great job of making me throw a lot of pitches. Corey Ray is one of the best hitters in the state. I didn’t want to give him anything good to hit and fortunately he rolled out to first.”

Lyons Township will move onto the Reavis Class 4A Sectional Semifinal on Wednesday at 4:30 against Mount Carmel (29-8). The Lions have ended Mount Carmel’s season the last two seasons. In 2011, when the Lions won the Class 4A title, they defeated the Caravan 4-1 in the Class 4A semifinals at Silver Cross Filed in Joliet.

In 2012, when LT was the Class 4A runners-up, the Lions defeated the Caravan in the Class 4A Mount Carmel Sectional semifinals.

“That was quite a confrontation to end this game between two All-State kids,” said Lyons Township head coach George Ushela. “That was a little nerve-wracking. Keith was outstanding but had some control problems in the seventh. Zach’s homerun and the other run in the bottom of the sixth were very important.”

Simeon closes out another sensational season at 21-8 and winning the Chicago Public League Championship for the second straight season.

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