Lisle's first to be first
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No one ever can say Lisle didn't earn it.
The Lions capped a remarkable baseball season Saturday night with a dominating 10-1 victory over Pleasant Plains in the Class 2A title game in Peoria.
By topping heavily favored Teutopolis in the semifinals and Pleasant Plains in the final -- teams with a combined 58 victories -- the Lions (23-10) more than validated its status as the program's first state champion.
Answering those who may have felt Lisle didn't belong on the same field as two teams with a combined 10 state trophies, the Lions left Dozer Park like they owned the joint.
"I really feel like we deserve this," said Lisle senior Alex Ventrella. "We were on top of the world after that win on Friday. We just had all the momentum after that."
After waiting out an 80-minute rain delay, Ventrella (7-1) sent down Pleasant Plains (28-10) in the top of the first to set the stage for a decisive bottom of the first.
The Lions struck for 6 runs on 7 hits, including 5 runs against Cardinals starter Taylor Staff, who was relieved after recording two outs. Kevin Coppin's 2-run single started the barrage and Bailey Welch added a 2-run double.
Despite Pleasant Plains managing a run off Ventrella in the second inning, the Lions put the game further out of reach by tacking on 4 runs in the fourth inning. By the time the Lions batted for the final time in the bottom of the sixth, their lineup worked through six Cardinals pitchers.
"We just came out focused and ready," Coppin said. "It was incredible. We just got hit after hit after hit. We just kept the pressure on them the whole time."
Lisle edged Teutopolis in a 2-1 semifinal nailbiter and then seemed to cruise through the title game. The one constant was the Lions' pitching, starting with Ryan Van Volkenburg's complete game on Friday and continuing with Ventrella's 5-plus innings on Saturday.
Jeremy Glavanovits pitched the final two innings for Lisle, epitomizing a team effort that saw 13 players contribute. Brian Czyl had 2 hits and scored twice, Coppin and Jake Oard drove in 2 runs apiece, and Welch went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI.
A hit, run and RBI from Adam Grego and Jordan Herman added to the brilliant performance, as did the five putouts by second baseman Cliff Krause and the clean game at first base by Alex Sokolowski.
"We were trying to get the guys refocused after that huge win on Friday," said Lisle coach Pete Meyer. "They couldn't afford to have a letdown after that."
Last year's Lisle team won 31 games and had extremely high hopes for a deep playoff run. With that team losing in the regional, however, this year's team made a point of winning in their honor.
In the process the 2013 Lisle Lions forged its own legendary identity by winning it all.
"I told the guys they beat two storied programs: they beat the best," Meyer said. "We came here with the goal of playing as good as we could play and playing the right way. At a certain point you just say, 'Why not us? Why can't we do it?' It's just an amazing achievement by these guys."
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit
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