Lyons Township baseball sweeps OPRF

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Marty Farmer

Contributing Reporter

Prior to Saturday's highly anticipated doubleheader between Lyons Township and Oak Park and River Forest, the last time the two annual powerhouse baseball programs collided was in the 2012 Class 4A state championship game (won by OPRF 5-4 courtesy of Michael Brennan's dramatic walk-off hit).

LT (14-6, 8-3 West Suburban Silver) gained a measure of revenge against the defending state champs and more importantly a sweep on Saturday by defeating the Huskies 3-1 in the opener and 7-4 in the nightcap.

In Game 1, LT left-hander Alex Vannucci threw a complete game four-hitter and didn't allow an earned run.

"The key for me was just hitting my spots and keeping the ball away," Vannucci said. "Guys like Heilenbach and Tom Prescott made great defensive plays, too."

OPRF (11-7, 7-4) squandered a scoring opportunity with runners on the corners in the top of the first.

"In the first, there was a pick off play [by LT] and we missed a sign," OPRF first baseman Nick Kowalczuk said about the key play which resulted in Sam Cottingham Beard getting thrown out at home plate to end the inning. "The game came down to a couple of plays like that where we made mental mistakes."

LT scratched across a run in its half of the frame when Sam Heilenbach drew a bases-loaded walk off OPRF starter Henry Cappel to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.

LT extended its advantage to 2-0 in the bottom of third as Mike Lorenz scored from third on OPRF shortstop Charlie Fencik's fielding error.

The Huskies responded in the top of the fourth as Jon Ernest, Fencik and Henry Pine strung together consecutive singles to load the bases. After Vannucci fanned Patrick Clifford on a called third strike, Cottingham Beard hit a sac fly scoring Ernest to draw OPRF to 2-1.

LT added an insurance run in the fourth to make the score 3-1 when Lorenz scored on a botched rundown play from the Huskies between third and home.

Over the final three frames, Vannucci yielded just a double to OPRF third baseman Keith Rogalla and a walk to Cottingham Beard.

In the second game, Michigan-bound right-hander Keith Lehmann (5-0) gave up seven hits and struck out six in a complete-game victory for LT. Knotted at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth, LT left fielder Jim Pavlik and designated hitter Matt Aikens each cracked a two-run double paving the way for the Lions' sweep of their primary conference rival.

The Huskies scored three unearned runs in the sixth aided by two LT errors to tie the game at 3-3. Rogalla hit a clutch two-RBI double and later scored OPRF's third run of the frame on an errant throw by Heilenbach.

"We were on fire in the beginning [of the season] but we've hit some losses [now] with Hinsdale Central and LT," Rogalla said. "I still think we're pretty good, but LT is a pretty good ballteam, too."

The respect is mutual between LT and OPRF, which have won a 4A state championship in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The Lions are also the defending summer state champs.

"The rivalry has always been a fun to watch for spectators," LT coach George Ushela said. "Whenever OPRF is coming, we know they are going to compete. Fortunately, we came out on top this time."

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