Senior catcher Jack McNamara was given greater responsibility for the Lyons Township high School baseball team this season by calling pitches for the first time.
“I always love learning more about calling pitches, calling games, different ways to set guys up, get guys out,” McNamara said.
The 2021 team Most Valuable Player did many things greater this season in rewriting the record books established by Kevin Diete since he became head coach in 2015.
McNamara also helped the Lions win their first regional title since 2014 and wield a never-say-die attitude, all the way down to their 5-3 loss to top-seeded Brother Rice in the IHSA Class 4A Reavis Sectional semifinals June 1.
No. 4-seeded LTHS (18-15) was tied 1-1 until the Crusaders broke through with a four-run sixth inning.
In the top of the seventh, the Lions scored twice and, if not for a base running snafu during Jack Falls’ run-scoring hit, could have had the bases loaded with one out. Brother Rice standout and Northwestern football recruit Jack Lausch chased down a deep fly to right field to end the game.
“We played pretty good but a couple of mistakes we made. A little rally at the end, but just a little too late,” said McNamara, who will play at Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
McNamara was co-captain with senior Charlie Greifenkamp, who had an RBI single in the seventh. In the fourth, the Lions took a 1-0 lead when Frederick Ragsdale III singled, McNamara reached on an error and James Georgelos’ hit scored Ragsdale.
This season, the Lions lost five games by one run and six by two runs.
“We just made too many mistakes physically and mentally [against Brother Rice]. That’s what cost us. But I’m proud of our guys for fighting,” Diete said.
“I’m happy, proud of the way our guys fought all year long. We had a fairly young team. We had a lot of juniors playing and pitchers that were younger. I thought Jack and Charlie provided good leadership. They’ll be hard to replace but I think we have some good juniors that can take those roles.”
McNamara again was chosen MVP. He set LTHS single-season varsity bests for batting average (.486), on-base percentage (.600), runs batted in (35) and putouts (169) and varsity career records for average (.408), on-base percentage (.533), RBIs (47), putouts (264), runs scored (57), walks (42) and doubles (14).
Ragsdale set single-season records for runs (34) and stolen bases (22), increasing his career record to 24.
“He’s definitely one of the top players I’ve ever coached – overall in terms of his leadership, his baseball IQ and his athletic ability,” Diete said of McNamara. “He was very, very good for us as a catcher and an incredible leader, very respected by his teammates. He held them accountable but in a respectful way. He wanted to win and wanted them to be a part of it as well.”
McNamara began catching around 7 or 8 with his father coaching “because no one else wanted to do it.” He first called games around 12 for his Top Tier travel team.
“I’m always in the game [at catcher], always having to think,” McNamara said. “I always have to think about the next pitch, the next player, the next play. It’s always fun, just keeps me locked in.”