Baseball: Stevenson takes Lake crown
On a day each of Stevenson's 13 seniors took a ceremonial jog around the home bases one final time, Dylan Molek enjoyed a particular trot of his own.
No, not of the homer variety.
Rather, Molek, wearing a wide smile, jogged happily in from left field. He had just made a perfect throw to nail a runner at home plate to complete a 7-2 double play that ended the top of the first inning.
"It felt good off the hand," said Molek, whose teammates sprinted out of the dugout to greet him.
The good vibe continued all game and even afterward on senior day for Stevenson, which beat visiting Lake Zurich 10-0 in five innings on Tuesday. Coupled with Lake Forest beating Libertyville 6-5 on the final day of North Suburban Lake play, Stevenson wrapped up the division championship outright.
Stevenson (22-7-1) finished 9-3 in the NSC Lake and will visit NSC Prairie-champ Wauconda on Thursday to play in the final NSC title game. Libertyville (8-4) and Lake Forest (8-4) tied for second place in the NSC Lake, while Mundelein (7-5) and Warren (7-5) tied for fourth.
Stevenson stole 6 bases and pounded out 9 hits against Lake Zurich (11-17, 3-9).
"Hats off to Stevenson," Bears coach Tom Reagan said. "They played a great game. They really put the bat on the ball, have great team speed, and they put a lot of pressure on you to make plays."
Lake Zurich made Stevenson make a play early. On Tyler Snepp's well-hit flyball to left field, Molek made the catch and threw the ball on the fly to catcher Christian Dutler, who was waiting for Kevin Johlie at the plate. Johlie had reached second base on an infield single and throwing error, before being bunted to third by Austin Wells.
"The kid threw a laser beam," Reagan said of Molek. "We've been struggling to score and I wanted to take a chance early. The kid made a great play."
"The throw was huge, and that got our momentum going the rest of the game," Stevenson coach Pat Block said. "After that, we got even-keeled, which was good to see from a good group of seniors. They didn't get too high off that play. They stayed focused throughout the game, knowing they had a job to do."
Up 1-0, Stevenson scored 4 unearned runs in the second inning against Lake Zurich starter Matt Svanson. Pat Loeffler's 2-run triple and Henry Marchese's RBI single were the key hits.
Dutler's safety-squeeze bunt, Marchese's RBI double and Charlie Ling's RBI bunt single highlighted the Patriots' 3-run third. The game ended on Brandon Grant's walk-off RBI single with none out in the bottom of the fifth.
In the Lake Zurich fifth, Molek fired a one-hop strike to second base to throw out a runner trying to stretch a gapper into a double.
"I trust my arm, and I really trust Dutler if I make a bad throw," Molek said. "I've played with him for four years, and it really helps."
Grant, Marchese and Ling (2 stolen bases) each had 2 hits for the Patriots.
Stevenson starting pitcher Justin Kopech pitched 4 innings of 2-hit ball, striking out three and walking a pair. Johlie had half of Lake Zurich's hits, all singles off Kopech and lefty Logan Lavelle.
"(Kopech) has pitched wonderful for us all year against good competition," Block said. "We had trust and faith in him to close the job. He attacked the zone and did well."