LOCKPORT – Lincoln-Way East suffered a disappointing end to its baseball postseason with a surprisingly early exit in the spring, but the Griffins have returned to the diamond with a vengeance this summer.
The Griffins notched their 14th win in 16 games with a 10-0 trouncing of Lincoln-Way West in five innings Wednesday at the Phil Lawler Summer Classic and secured a spot in next week’s summer league state finals.
The Griffins coasted untouched through the double-elimination Lockport Regional bracket. The Warriors would have needed to defeat them twice to knock them from their perch, but East wasted little time making it apparent that it2 only needed one game. In fact, it only needed five innings.
After an uneventful first inning at the top of the Warriors’ order, the Griffins lashed out for four runs in the bottom of the first. Three of those runs came courtesy of a three-run triple from Matt Michaels.
Michaels’ bases-clearing triple stole the wind from West’s sails and would have been enough to seal the deal for the Griffins. Starting pitcher Anthony Panzella came through with an impressively efficient outing en route to the shutout.
“I did a nice job throwing strikes today. I located the ball and trusted the guys to play well behind me and do what they needed to do.” Panzella said. “All the offense helps, too. You know you can let them hit the ball a bit more often, and you don’t feel as much pressure on you.”
Panzella got plenty of support throughout the game as the Griffins put up at least one run each time they came to the plate. East followed its four-run first with one in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and two more in the fifth inning that culminated in a walk-off RBI single from Cael Geijer.
The early exit allowed the Griffins to beat most of the July heat and secure their spot in the finals in relatively short order.
“The strong start was huge for us, especially in the heat on a day that could have been a war of attrition,” coach Eric Brauer said. “If we didn’t win the first game, you’re staring at
94-degree heat and five or six hours of being out there. It was definitely good to play from ahead.
“Our pitcher threw a lot of strikes – we only had two walks on the day – and our defense did a nice job, as well,” Brauer said. “That’s a really nice recipe that I think, generally speaking, works in high school baseball. Especially in the summer where its warm, and you really don’t want to be out here for five hours if you don’t have to be.”
The summer state finals will kick off Monday with games split between North Central College in Naperville and Benedictine University in Lisle. Lincoln-Way East will play Jacobs in the opening round at 12:30 p.m. at Benedictine.