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If Class 4A defending state champion Lyons Township earns a coveted repeat title in baseball, getting through the Mount Carmel Sectional will be a major achievement along the way.
The Lions accomplished the first part of that formidable two-game task by upsetting St. Laurence 8-3 on Wednesday at Haggerty Field. Illinois State-bound Steve Heilenbach, a key member of the 2011 LT club, blasted a two-run homer over the left field wall in the third inning to stake LT to a 2-0 lead. Fellow senior Evan Booth added a two-run shot in the fourth to extend the Lions' advantage to 4-1.
Lyons put the game away with a four-run fifth inning as Blake Murray and Stewart Nelson hit RBI singles and Booth picked up his third RBI with a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, Heilenbach (4-4) went the distance, allowing just one earned run and scattering four hits along with seven strikeouts and five walks.
Sophomore Brad Wood singled in the bottom of the third inning for the Vikings before St. Laurence added two unearned runs in the fifth. Zack Lewis took the loss for St. Laurence.
The Lions (24-12-1) will face the winner of Mount Carmel vs. St. Rita (who play Thursday night) in Saturday's sectional championship game at Haggerty Field (11 a.m.). Junior right-hander Keith Lehmann (8-2), the other returning starter on last year's state title team, is expected to take the ball on Saturday. Last year, LT knocked of Mount Carmel and Providence, ranked No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, in the state semifinals and final, en route to the Class 4A title.
Lyons opened the playoffs this spring by cruising past Reavis and Morton to claim the Reavis Regional championship.