Lyons Township High School senior first baseman Cooper Ohlson brought extra energy and chatter to the May 28 IHSA Class 4A St. Rita Regional final against the host Mustangs.
Ohlson, who played for St. Rita baseball as a freshman, only got louder as the Lions trailed by four runs after four innings.
“I was excited to play them. [But] we started off slow,” Ohlson said. “I just thought our season wasn’t done yet and just spark the fire within and get the team rolling.”
The Lions responded with their best offensive inning of the season – an eight-run fifth– and rallied for a 12-7 victory and their first regional title since 2014.
The No. 4-seeded Lions (18-14) meet top-seeded Brother Rice in the Reavis Sectional semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on June 1.
The Lions lost to Oak Lawn in last season’s regional semifinals. The 2017-19 teams were conference champions, but they lost regional finals to St. Rita twice and Mt. Carmel.
“We wanted to change that. We wanted to be the first ones to win it, at least for [LTHS coach Kevin Diete],” senior catcher Jack McNamara said. “This is one of the top [victories], for sure, such a great team win.”
Ohlson transferred to LTHS and was eligible for the 2020 season, but that was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 28, his fourth-inning home run cut the deficit to 7-3.
Senior shortstop Charlie Greifenkamp singled and Charlie Breen doubled to begin the incredible fifth.
Troy Stukenberg (3-for-4) hit a two-run double to close to 7-6. Ohlson’s single tied the game and Jack Falls’ two-run single put LTHS ahead 9-7. Greifenkamp came to bat a second time and delivered a two-run single.
“That was probably the most explosive inning we’ve had all year,” Stukenberg said.
Defensively, reliever Adam Severson allowed just one run over the final 4.2 innings.
“I don’t think we’ve had many (innings) like that so I’d say it’s our best of the season,” Diete said. “We’ve been down before and always been trying to tell them keep battling back.”
Luke Stockbridge threw a five-inning one-hitter in LTHS’ 12-0 regional semifinal victory over Kelly with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
Breen hit a two-run homer. McNamara (3-for-4, 4 RBIs) had two doubles and Greifenkamp (3 RBIs) and Frederick Ragsdale III were 2 for 2 with triples.