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The Lyons Township softball team was eager to grab a victory against Oak Park; and the Lions got it when it mattered most.
Sixth-seeded LT (19-14-1) defeated the No. 4 seed Huskies 3-0 on Saturday at Lyons Township to win the Class 4A Lyons Regional championship, and advanced to play Trinity in the first round of sectional play on Wednesday. After losing their previous two games against the Huskies, Lions senior outfielder Alyssa Koziol knew her team would be ready to redeem itself and take the regional title.
"We were pumped to play," she said. "We came out here at 8:30 this morning and everybody was just ready to go. Right from the first inning, we were up and ready to win. We knew we had it."
With the game scoreless in the top of the sixth inning, Lions junior Becky Ryckman led things off with a double to left-center, and sophomore Stephanie D'Anna followed with a single. Sophomore infielder Kayla Morrissey then reached on a fielder's choice that led to a tag out at the plate. Huskies senior left fielder Caitlyn Bell got the ball in to catcher Annie Ford, who was blocking the plate and stopped Ryckman in her tracks to save a run. With two outs, though, Koziol knocked in the Lyons' first runs of the game as her fly ball tipped off of Bell's glove in left field. Although it appeared to be a routine fly ball, Koziol knows that one golden rule of softball is to run it out no matter what.
"I thought (Bell) caught the ball at first," she aid. "But it was a hard hit ball, so I just kept running."
Koziol finished the day 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs, while Ryckman was 2-for-4 with an RBI. For the Huskies (19-18), third baseman Dana Alcock went 2-for-3 with two singles, while Ford went 1-for-3 with a single.
Ford knew that Saturday's game was going to be a close one, as their previous two meetings with the Lions went into extra innings.
"We've been back and forth with Lyons," Ford said. "We knew we were pretty equally matched. It was a good game to play; it's just tough that we're on the losing side."
The Lions capped things off in the seventh inning with Ryckman knocking in sophomore pitcher Ashley Koziol from first base with a single to left field.
The Lyons stranded eight runners in scoring position, but Koziol knew it was only a matter of time before they got somebody home.
"Eventually, we knew we were going to get it through," she said. "We had it in us."
Huskies head coach Mel Kolbusz was proud of the effort from his team not only in Saturday's game, but all season long. Oak Park's record improved from 11-22 last season to 19-18 in 2012.
"We hung in there, we never gave up," he said. "I love these kids and it's been a nice season. I know we're headed in the right direction."
Ford's second and final year on the Huskies' varsity team has now come to a close; but she said she will never forget the great times she had with this close-knit group.
"This team was amazing," she said. "We have a lot of fun together and always keep each other up. It's always fun to play with them."
Photos by SCOTT HARDESTY/Contributor