Video: OPRF takes down defending champs

SHARE Video: OPRF takes down defending champs

The most surprising thing about Lyons’ 4-3 loss to Oak Park-River Forest in Saturday’s state championship game was how hard the guys took it. There were plenty of tears, shock and hugs in Lyons’ first base dugout at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Just one year earlier, Lyons won the Class 4A state championship over Providence.

But then I had to remind myself that this year’s Lyons team was not last year’s Lyons team. Only second baseman Steve Heilenbach and third baseman Keith Lehmann were returning starters from 2011. Both served as the only pitchers in this year’s state tournament for Lyons. Heilenbach and Lehmann were among only five players that were on the roster for the 2011 state champions, including Evan Booth, Brad Taylor and Matt Robare. With that kind of overhaul, you could describe this as perhaps George Ushela’s finest year as coach. He owns a 348-109-4 record in 12 years at Lyons.

Booth appeared in the previous state championship game as a pinch runner and Taylor played catcher, but DH Tom Walsh batted for him in the 8-3 title game win. Robare did not get to play.

A year later, all five were starters in a game that went back and forth. Earlier in the season, Lyons won two of three games over West Suburban Silver rival OPRF. Lyons won 6-0 on May 2 and 4-2 on May 11. OPRF won 5-2 on May 9. The title game featured the second (Lyons) and third (OPRF) place teams from the conference. Silver champion York lost in the first round of the playoffs to Schaumburg.

In the fourth game of the series between Lyons and OPRF, roles players came up big in pressure situations for both teams.

Three previous state baseball championships featured teams from the same conference: Notre Dame defeated Joliet Catholic (East Suburban Catholic) in 2004, Maine beat Niles (Central Suburban League) in 1958 and Fenger won over Kelly (Public League) in 1946.

Prep Baseball Report also reported on the championship game.’s photo gallery on the final.

The IHSA boxscore for the Class 4A championship.

OPRF’s appearances in the state final:

With coach Frank Foster

1942 OPRF 7, Streator 2

With Jack Kaisier

1981 Class AA: OPRF 8, Brother Rice 3

With Chris Ledbetter

2001 Class AA: Bradley-Bourbonnais 5, OPRF 2

2008 Class 4A: Prairie Ridge 3, OPRF 2

2012 Class 4A: OPRF 4, Lyons 3

Lyons’ appearances in the state final:

With Lester Glick

1950 Peoria Manual 6, Lyons 0

With Dick Leiber

1962 Decatur Eisenhower 3, Lyons 2

1967 Lyons 5, Peoria Manual 0

With George Ushela

2003 Class AA: Lyons 15, Rockford Boylan 6

2011 Class 4A: Lyons 8, Providence 3

2012 Class 4A: OPRF 4, Lyons 3

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