Baseball: Lemont’s Brian Storako the SouthtownStar 2014 Coach of the Year
By Pat Disabato email@example.com June 24, 2014 8:40PM
Lemont head coach Brian Storako during the game against De La Salle for the 3A Supersectional game at Standard Bank Stadium, Monday, June 9th, 2014, in Crestwood. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 26, 2014 6:21AM
With his team trailing by a run with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the seventh inning in the Class 3A state championship game, Lemont coach Brian Storako said he started thinking about what he was going to say to his players after coming up short.
“How was I going to tell them, “You did everything right; put the ball in play, pitched a great game and pretty much played flawless defense — but that it wasn’t good enough today?’ ” Storako said. “What are the parents going to tell their kids? How are they going to console them? That’s what was going through my mind at that time.”
Fortunately for Storako, that postgame speech never was needed. Lemont mounted an improbable two-out rally that led to a 2-1 win and the Class 3A state championship.
He took a ride from sorrow to joy in a matter of minutes.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to make that speech,” Storako said. “All season we tried to prepare the kids that if something didn’t go their way, to keep working hard. Keep battling and stay positive.”
It’s a message that resonated with the Indians, who finished 35-5 and brought home the program’s first state championship.
For those efforts, Storako is the SouthtownStar 2014 Coach of the Year.
“Thank you. It’s a great honor,” Storako said. “We have a great group of kids and I have a great staff.”
One of the most impressive aspects of Lemont’s two-run rally June 14 against Sacred Heart-Griffin was that it was the lesser known, but equally important players, at the bottom of the batting order who did the bulk of the damage.
Mike Gralla, the Indians’ No. 8 hitter, recorded a two-out single that kept the season alive. No. 9 hitter Jamie Glista reached on an error and Danny Dowiarz walked to load the bases.
Ryan Folliard, who will forego college baseball to study medicine at Kentucky, came through with a two-run single.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that we would have won the state championship the way we did and (Mike) Papierski, Mike Wisz and (Jake) Terrazas wouldn’t be involved in that final inning, I would have said you were crazy,” Storako said of his Nos. 3-4-5 hitters. “But that’s how it’s been much of the season. Different guys picking each other up. These guys genuinely cared about each other. They wanted to see each other succeed.”
Storako experienced the ultimate satisfaction in his second season as Lemont coach. He’s well aware of his fortunes.
“Some coaches go their entire career without an opportunity to play for a state championship,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have the support of a great community, school and players.”
A 2000 Bremen graduate, Storako considers his older brother, Rob, his biggest influence.
“He coached me my sophomore year at Bremen,” Storako said. “He showed me the ropes. He learned from (former Bremen coach) Tom Johnson. I’d say my brother and coach Johnson were big influences.”
Storako spent a couple of years coaching Lemont’s freshman and sophomore teams before heading to Marian Catholic as a varsity assistant for five seasons. When the Lemont job opened up, Storako, a physical education and driver’s ed teacher, applied and received the gig.
“It’s a great place to work and coach,” he said. “It’s such a tight-knit community. It feels good to bring a state championship home for Lemont.”