Lyons Township High School baseball head coach Kevin Diete is well aware of the Lions’ tradition.
Diete is a 2003 LTHS graduate and was the starting third baseman on the Lions’ Class AA state championship team that year. He was also an assistant for previous LTHS head coach George Ushela in 2008.
With a year of varsity head coaching experience under his belt, Diete is optimistic regarding the Lions’ outlook this spring after a 17-18 campaign in 2015.
“We have a team that has put lot of time and effort into the offseason,” Diete said. “While learning new coaching philosophies and strategies that vary from the former head coach George Ushela, the team is extremely anxious to test their updated baseball knowledge and skills this season.
“They have the potential to compete for a conference championship and will do whatever it takes to get there.”
Reflective of the program’s rich tradition, which includes three regular season state championships, LTHS will focus on strong pitching and defense as a formula for success. Improved offensive execution and production will also be a point of emphasis.
“I think pitching and defense will be our strength as it traditionally has been in the past,” Diete said. “We will have to be a team that utilizes our strengths to the best of our ability and execute to the point of perfection in an effort be consistently successful.”
While the Lions graduated four keys seniors last year, notably pitching ace/Brookfield resident Tom Hickey, the cupboard of talent is far from bare.
Senior second baseman Jon Miranda and senior outfielder Michael Phelan return to lead the offense. Miranda, a smooth-fielding infielder with a strong arm and quick bat, hit .280 with eight RBI and 13 runs scored last year. Phelan finished at .294 with 10 RBI, 23 runs and nine stolen bases in 2015.
Seniors Griffin Schultz (4-0, 1.10 ERA, 20 strikeouts in 19 innings) and Jose Venegas along with junior Matt Phillipp (2-2, 3.53 ERA, 33.2 innings pitched) comprise the top end of the pitching rotation.
Ian Delleman (P/OF), and Michael Courtney (INF/P) provide depth on the mound.
“Delleman has a live fastball with good velocity that can jump on a hitter,” Diete said. “He complements that pitch with a sharp curveball.
Courtney projects as a reliever early in the season, but he could potentially mix into the starting rotation as a the season progresses.”
Several varsity newcomers offer an infusion of additional talent including juniors like Justin Williams (C/1B), Scott Garrow (OF), Connor Pasko (1B) and Wyatt Tawse (INF/OF).
Williams, the sophomore MVP in 2015, brings another good bat to the lineup. Garrow has tremendous speed and the highly competitive Tawse is a utility player.
Per usual, the West Suburban Conference Silver Division is stacked with excellent teams. Oak Park and River Forest is the preseason favorite, followed by some order of Hinsdale Central, York and LTHS.
“Our expectations are to win each series against our conference opponents,” Diete said. “Hopefully, we can work our way deep into the playoffs.
“Our emphasis will always be placed on the doing the little things right, which eventually accumulates to one big thing. That big thing eventually be winning a state championship.”