Lyons Township’s sizzling offense so dominant leading up to the IHSA Class AA Baseball State tournament struggled to find open real estate at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva on Friday as the Lions fell 2-1 to O’Fallon in the quarterfinals.
LT, which was gunning for its second state title in four years, had won 20 of its last 22 games before opening the tournament against little known O’Fallon, a downstate school that sits just west of St. Louis. The game was more of a pitcher’s duel in more ways than one.
Division I signees Dan Weston and Brian Gass went head-to-head for the first time in their high school careers. Weston, LT’s ace all year with a perfect 11-0 record going into Friday’s game, allowed two earned runs on five hits. The Illinois State-bound senior, who tossed 60 strikes out of 88 pitches thrown, walked one and racked up eight strikeouts on the day, including the side in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Gass, who is headed to Indiana State in the fall, nearly mirrored Weston’s numbers, allowing one earned run on five hits. He yielded no walks and struck out five.
O’Fallon’s only runs came in the third inning when Jordan Colvin doubled down the right field line to easily score Caleb Dziurdy, who had reached base on a single and had eventually stole third. The very next batter, Gass, helped out his own cause with an RBI single and the Panthers were up 2-0.
The Lions responded in the fourth. Mike Bellisario led off the inning with a single to center. Brian Dunne popped up to centerfield, advancing Bellisario to second. First team All-Stater Casey McMurray then drove his first offer down the left field line for a double, which moved Bellisario over to third. Weston singled in his teammate.
But that was all the runs the Lions would muster. For the next few innings, flyouts to the outfield became routine for LT. With the wind blowing in at 10 mph, hard-hit balls were either slashed down or hit straight at defenders. The Lions rallied briefly in the last inning when Justin Birks, a .429 hitter, singled to left field with one out. Andy Cannon singled to center but the rally ended on a flyout and groundout.
“We had good cuts at the plate, there’s no doubt about that,” said LT coach George Ushela. “I mean we hit the ball hard, but they made some plays and the rest is history.”
Ranked No. 1 in the state by Chicago’s daily newspapers, Lyons was heavily favored to win the title. Had the Lions defeated O’Fallon, they would have had a record seven top-four finishes.
“It’s really hard to comprehend, but it was a really good ballgame,” said Ushela. “Our guys didn’t let up.”
The Lions graduated 13 seniors, including Bellisario, Weston, and Birks. Along with Murray, who batted .500 with five homers during the regular season, Grant Fillipitch is expected to return next season. Fillipitch, who belted out a team high 15 doubles this year, also went 6-1 on the mound for the Lions.
LT closes out the season with a record of 34-7.