Lyons Township won the West Suburban (Silver) Conference baseball title with a 12-6 record last year. That’s a relatively high number of losses in the Silver Division for a typical conference champion, according to Lyons coach George Ushela.
“I think there was more parity in the conference [last year],” Ushela said. “Our conference is always tough to win because everybody always has one or two tough pitchers, but I like our chances this season.”
Lyons, which finished 25-10 overall last spring and lost to Wheaton North 3-2 in a Class 4A regional final, welcomes back seven starters.
Six-foot-4 shortstop Spencer Mahoney is a three-year varsity starter with a live bat and smooth defensive skills. He has signed with Valparaiso University to play college baseball.
“On a lot of my teams [in the past], I would probably hit Spencer third but I like him at the top of the order,” said Ushela, who enters his 11th year coaching LT. “He draws walks, steals bases and he’s just a steady left-handed hitter.”
Mahoney, an excellent all-around athlete, also was a starting guard on the Lions’ back-to-back conference championship basketball squads.
Junior second baseman/pitcher Steve Heilenbach, who will likely bat second in the order, is another versatile player who gained valuable varsity experience last year. Pitching ace/designated hitter Connor Cuff and first baseman Brian Rodemoyer form a daunting hitting tandem in the middle of the Lions’ stacked lineup. The University of Pennsylvania-bound Cuff batted over .300 with 14 extra-base hits and two game-winning home runs last year. Rodemoyer enjoyed a breakout season last spring, hitting .375 with seven homers, 38 RBIs and 12 doubles.
“We have a solid lineup especially with our top four hitters,” Ushela said. “All those guys get on base and can hit for power.”
Promising sophomore third baseman/catcher Keith Lehmann, catcher Brad Taylor, third baseman Tom Walsh, right fielder Mike Pett, second baseman/outfielder Mike Zeahe and outfielder Brian Kelley are other key players for LT this spring.
Cuff (8-0, sub-2.50 ERA, 70 strikeouts) leads a deep and talented pitching rotation that includes senior Zach Remijas, Jack Peth, Matt Robare and Jimmy Heilenbach (Steve’s cousin). Remijas was effective last year as both a starter and closer.
“We’re solid in every facet of the game,” Ushela said. “We just can’t afford to beat ourselves. There were times last season when we couldn’t close out innings and gave up leads. We should be more solid defensively with our experience.”
The Lions are the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champions, but Oak Park, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, York and Downers Grove North all could factor into a potentially crowded race.
Lyons opens the season at home against Montini on Thursday at 4:15 p.m.