Senior leadoff hitter and center fielder Frederick Ragsdale III often was the Lyons Township High School baseball team’s offensive catalyst.
He was among many reasons the Lions (25-10) captured back-to-back regional titles for the first time since 2011 through 2014.
Ragsdale, Troy Stukenberg, Jack Falls and James Georgelos were senior team captains.
“We continued on [this season] where we left off. We didn’t drop off,” said Ragsdale, who will play at Kent State. “I’m most proud of being able to help these juniors to transition their way to be leaders on the team.”
When Ragsdale singled and scored in a two-run first inning at the IHSA Class 4A Mt. Carmel Sectional semifinals June 1, the Lions were off to a great start.
But Brother Rice responded with a four-run second inning and pulled away for a 7-3 victory. The game time was 90 minutes earlier than originally scheduled to accommodate the LTHS graduation that evening.
“That’s baseball. Just proud of every single senior, all 18 of them,” said second baseman Stukenberg.
“Everyone had a role on this team. It was a heck of a ride. Tears will be shed but I can’t be more proud for every single guy. I think we left pretty big shoes [as seniors] to fill and I just hope they can admire what we tried to accomplish and hopefully make it farther than us next year.”
The Crusaders (25-15) eliminated the Lions in the sectional semifinals for the second year in a row. Third at state in 2022, Brother Rice earned another state semifinal berth by beating Lincoln-Way East 5-4 on June 5.
The Lions’ large senior group included West Suburban Conference Silver selections Ragsdale, Stukenberg, Falls and Sam Viniard. Also all-conference was junior Brady Chambers, part of the starting pitching trio with junior Nate Anderson and sophomore Tucker King.
“This [senior] group was good with their leadership and work ethic. They got that from last year’s senior group. That’s the part I’m going to miss the most,” LTHS coach Kevin Diete said. “It’s kind of like building a house where we say the foundation is laid. Now we just have to keep building layers and get to where we want to be.”
Stukenberg had two doubles, his first following Ragsdale’s leadoff single. Falls’ ground out and Viniard’s sacrifice fly scored the runs.
With the bases loaded and one out in the second, Stukenberg again made solid contact, but it resulted in an inning-ending double play.
“I looked at the third baseman who made the play. His head was turned away,” said Ragsdale, who was on first. “I was so mad. It was one of those like look-what-I-found type of plays.”
Brother Rice then had a four-run third, including a three-run homer by senior leadoff hitter Bryce Nevils off the scoreboard in left field.
“I think the biggest game changer was when we had the bases loaded and we got that double play. I feel like we lost all of our momentum and they kind of took over the game from there,” Ragsdale said.
Brother Rice added two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Lions stranded Viniard on second after a leadoff single in the fourth and Falls on third after his leadoff double in the fifth.
“[Brother Rice] got the timely hits. We didn’t,” Diete said. “It’s just the way baseball goes sometimes.”
Stukenberg, who will play at St. Xavier, set program records for hits in a season (52 this year) and varsity career (85) over the seasons since Diete became head coach in 2015.
“It’s a cool thing I can tell my kids when I’m older. I’m proud to say I took as many as I could,” Stukenberg said. “It’ll be cool to see my name kind of go up in the rafters if you will with LT baseball, something to be proud of.”
Ragsdale owns the single-season record for stolen bases (22 in 2022) as well as career (42).
“It means a lot,” Ragsdale said. “That’s not really what I’m thinking of when I’m playing. I’m just trying to win. But it was a great honor, knowing that my name will be there is amazing. It’s an unreal type of feeling.”