Youth Softball: Lyons-McCook 14U takes 5th in state
By Steve Metsch
David Sandoval and his players won’t soon forget the summer of 2021.
Sandoval manages the 14-U girls softball team in the Lyons-McCook Little League, a team that wound up finishing fifth in their division in Illinois.
“I’m very proud of them,” Sandoval said.
When asked what makes the team special?
“Their heart,” he added. “I think they would run through a wall for me.”
He said being close-knit helped a lot.
“They’ve been playing together, most of them, for seven years,” Sandoval said. “Since they were small.”
Lyons-McCook beat La Grange, 6-5, to win the district championship on July 1. That win put the girls into the state tournament, which was played in Melrose Park.
In the first game at state, Lyons-McCook lost 11-3 to Melrose Park, “a very good team,” Sandoval said.
“But we gave them a good game. We were losing 5-3 in the seventh inning, and then they blew it open.”
Despite the loss, pitcher Alyssa Kunz did well.
“She kept us in there,” Sandoval said. “There’s 21 outs, she had 16 strikeouts.”
Kunz was on fire, striking out 51 in three games at state.
In the next game, an 8-0 win over Moline, she fanned 21 batters. Yes, every out was a strikeout.
Kunz will play high school softball at Morton, Sandoval said.
In the third game, against Belmont, Kunz had a prior commitment and was unable to pitch. Bella Perez struck out nine in a complete game. Lyons-McCook won, 26-13.
Mia Quintero shone at the plate, slugging a grand slam.
Kunz pitched the following game against Peru on July 16. Peru scraped by, 4-3.
“We had a shot,” Sandoval said. “In the bottom of the seventh, it was them winning 4-3, a girl at third, two outs and my daughter up to bat. She had been killing the ball, so I was excited.”
His daughter, Dateli, grounded back to the pitcher to end the game, along with the state title hopes.
“There were tears in the dugout,” Sandoval said. “Laughing. All sorts of emotions. I was very proud of the girls, especially the Belmont game when we didn’t have our stud (pitcher) going.”
There’s no shame in finishing fifth of 11 teams, he said.
“Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes,” he added.
While it gives him hope for the future, more girls are needed at the 14U level. Lyons-McCook had just enough girls for one team. Rather than play in-house, as do most leagues, Lyons-McCook found itself with regular season schedule playing teams from La Grange, Brookfield, Archer Manor and other communities.
This was Sandoval’s third season as the team’s manager. Ramiro Perez and Francisco Ramirez are the coaches.
“We were all coaches,” Sandoval said. “I was just the voice. I consider us all at the same level.”
Lyons-McCook Team Roster
Isabella “Bella” Perez
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