Disabato: St. Laurence’s Zach Lewis lets his pitching do the talking
Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 802-8837 July 18, 2012 10:08PM
St. Laurence pitcher Zach Lewis. | File photo
“Play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. No trash-talking. Just stay relaxed and keep our composure.”
Zach Lewis, St. Laurence pitcher
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:46AM
The last time St. Laurence’s Zach Lewis was on the same field with St. Rita, he ignited a benches-clearing brawl.
Yes, a good amount of trash-talking by both squads during the game caused emotions to reach a boiling point. But it wasn’t until Lewis intentionally ran into St. Rita first baseman Rick Faron when things turned ugly.
The Catholic League Blue powers played twice during the summer season with nary an incident.
However, Lewis was missing in action both times, playing for his travel team.
On Wednesday, when the two teams squared off in a summer playoffs regional semifinal at Richards, Lewis was front and center, toeing the rubber.
“We told him on Monday that he was going to pitch Wednesday and that it might be against St. Rita,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said. “We told him to pitch with intensity, but to keep his emotions in check.”
If any good has come from the embarrassing brawl, which occurred May 18 and resulted in the IHSA handing down multiple suspensions, it’s that the player chants that used to emanate from St. Laurence’s dugout during games have been retired.
Yes, silence is golden.
While St. Rita would cross the line at times with dugout razzing as well, it was nowhere near the level of the Vikings, who were the undisputed champs of chatter.
The only sounds that could be heard from the respective dugouts Wednesday were words of encouragement.
The relative silence not only was welcome, it put the focus on the field of play, where it belongs.
“Play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Lewis said of the chant-free Vikings. “No trash-talking. Just stay relaxed and keep our composure.”
There were few, if any, reasons for Lewis to lose his cool Wednesday — other than a taxing second inning, when the right-hander served up consecutive two-out walks and watched a fielder botch a grounder that gave St. Rita a 2-0 lead.
Even then, Lewis remained composed, focused.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Lewis is an imposing figure on the mound.
“He battled his butt off and got out of a couple of jams,” Lotus said. “He was unbelievable.”
Not just with his rocket right arm, which was consistently pumping fastballs near 90 mph, but with his bat, too. Lewis led the offense with a 3-for-4 effort.
Still, it was Kevin White’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth that allowed St. Laurence to walk away with a 5-4 victory.
Lewis went all the way on the bump, scattering eight hits and striking out seven. He had difficulty finding the strike zone with his breaking ball, which has been an ongoing issue.
If he ever develops consistency with his deuce, he will be darn near unhittable.
“I played as hard as I could,” Lewis said. “The defense picked me up, the hitting game was going pretty well. I wanted to give us the best chance I could to win the game.”
It was a tough loss for St. Rita, which failed to hold a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
St. Rita coach Mike Zunica made no mention of the brawl to his team.
“Bygones are bygones,” he said.
It’s a different looking St. Rita team than in recent years. The offense is without a consistent power threat who can turn the game around with one mighty swing of the bat.
However, up and down the order, there are quality hitters. Anthony Ray, Chad Prieto, Jake Shepski, Andrew Massey and Connor McClain (the latter of whom did not play Wednesday), can swing it.
Mike Costanzo, who started on the mound Wednesday, has great stuff. The lefty has a tendency to walk hitters — two came around to score Wednesday. But he could develop into an ace.
Shepski has ace potential, as well.
“We love our team,” Zunica said. “They’re not guys who will hit three-run homers. But they’re very good baseball players. We have to get stronger, have a good offseason and be ready to go next spring.”