Baseball: Lehmann homer powers Lions over Red Devils
Lyons Township's Stewert Nelson throws to first after forcing Oak Park-River Forest's Nick Kowalczuk at second base. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:28AM
Keith Lehmann had seven home runs last season as a member of Lyons Township’s Class 4A state championship team, but the junior third baseman-pitcher hit his fifth homer of the season Saturday with at least nine games remaining.
LT won for the fourth time in its last five games to beat West Suburban Conference Silver Division rival Hinsdale Central 7-3 Saturday in Western Springs. Lehmann hit a two-run home run as part of a four-run first inning for LT, which added two more runs in the second inning. Lehmann finished with three RBI after hitting into a sacrifice fly in his next at-bat in the second.
LT owns a two-game lead over No. 9 Oak Park-River Forest, but the two teams will meet twice this week, playing in Oak Park Wednesday and then in Western Springs on Friday. Because Saturday’s game was originally a doubleheader, LT meets the Red Devils (8-16, 3-7) for the second game of the three-game series again Monday at LT and then at Hinsdale Central Tuesday.
Lehmann’s homer came off Jay Richards, who lasted only two more innings before getting replaced by Sam Burnett. Matt Robare went the distance to earn the victory for LT (15-7-1, 9-2).
Hinsdale Central opened the game with three runs in the top of the first. Sam Lucente doubled in Tom Delzenero and then Adam Dressler and Michael Fikaris added RBI singles.
In the bottom of the first, Steve Heilenbach had an RBI single before Lehmann’s at-bat and Robare hit an RBI single afterward.
“At the beginning of the season, we knew we lost a lot of seniors,” Lehmann said. “We knew we had some guys learning. They have come up and stepped up the way they have been playing lately. It’s really good. I’m happy with all the guys. Everyone is doing well. We are back on track.”
LT coach George Ushela attributes his team’s recent streak to Heilenbach, an Illinois State-bound second baseman, who has broken out of a slump that had him batting below .200. Heilenbach batted .358 to rank third on the team last season.
“He’s starting to hit the ball well,” said Ushela, who had to move Heilenbach out of his usual No. 2 spot in the order.
“We’re starting to play better,” Ushela said. “I think we’re getting a little more serious about doing the small things well. We’re starting to minimize our mistakes.”
The Red Devils lost their sixth consecutive game and were beaten for the ninth time in their last 10 games. Hinsdale Central’s only win over that span was a 4-2 victory at Leyden April 19.
“I have to give my team a lot of credit,” Hinsdale Central coach Justin Cronin said. “I know they’re right in it. They’re a creative team, a positive team. They’re upbeat. It’s easy for them to waver, but they haven’t.”
The game was scheduled to be held earlier in the day, but was moved due to the SAT exam in the morning. Hinsdale Central also held its prom Saturday night at Navy Pier.
“The team did exactly what you hope to do with when you’re on the road. You have to get at them early,” Cronin said. “It’s a matter of sustaining that. We had three hits the rest of the way (after the first).”
Hinsdale Central threatened in the top of the seventh, but Robare struck out Dressler with runners at third and second base.