By Mark Gregory | @Hear_The_Beard
When Lisle and Westmont met in a two-day home and home series a couple weeks ago, the outcomes of the two games mirrored the team’s seasons as the Lions grabbed game one on the road 6-4 and Westmont traveled to Lisle for game two and won 8-3.
“It is always a battle with Westmont, I don’t care what the records are,” said Lisle coach Pete Meyer.
The split in the games matched the up and down season Westmont has been having
“We have had our ups and downs,” coach D.J. Cocks said. “We have beat some good teams and losing to some good teams. Defensively we are not there and our bats are struggling a bit and we have some growing pains right now, but it is a long season and we have lot of time. It is pretty early, but we are at the point where we have to start figuring it out. The backwards Ks have to stop coming in big situations, we have talked about that. They have to go down fighting.”
The team may have figured it out before game two, thanks to a player’s only meeting after the game-one loss.
“They get tired of hearing me say it all the time,” Cocks said. “Maybe they can talk it out themselves.”
At the forefront of leadership for Westmont is junior catcher Joe Donovan.
“Joe Donovan has been there consistent for us,” Cocks said. “Joe has been on varsity for three years and has been through everything we have been through and he knows what it takes and knows how to play the game the right way. It is in the right hands – that’s for sure.
“He is a leader for us and he was a leader for us as a freshman and he has kept it up for us his sophomore and junior year. I can’t say enough about him. He works hard and does everything the right way and he has just been killing the ball this year, we just have to get more guys to get on that page.”
There are a couple more guys Cocks said are performing well.
“Jackson Fischer on the mound has done a nice job and Matt Alisauskis has been bringing it for us and playing the game the right way, which is good, but until we start doing it as a team we are going to continue to lose close ball games,” Cocks said.
Fischer went seven innings for the win, striking out seven, while Alisauskis had an RBI in each game, including two hits in the opener.
Unlike Westmont, Meyer said Lisle does not have the dominant players leading the charge.
“We have been the epitome of team,” he said. “One day it is our second baseman getting it done, then the next game it is the catcher then the right fielder. We have to be like that because we certainly don’t have that one stand out player. We have to be 14 guys that are playing together in order to win and we have been doing that. We haven’t had one guy who is just on fire. It has truly been a team effort and that is what we are telling them it is going to have to be if we going to be successful throughout the year.”
As long as the Lions continue to have one or more players performing well each game, Meyer knows the team concept can carry Lisle deep into the playoffs.
“We have to pick each other up. One pitch at a time, one out at a time, one game at a time – all the things you hear all the time, but they are so true,” he said. “Over the course of a season, it is the team that is mentally tougher that is going to win games. This game is so filled with failure and it is if you can handle the failure. We are trying to figure that out right now, but I wouldn’t even say we are close to having it figured out. We are focusing on doing the little things better and we have a long way to go.”
Both coaches know what it takes for a successful run through the postseason, as Lisle won the Class 2A state title in 2013 and Westmont shared third place a year later after the game was cancelled due to weather.
“We talked after a game last week about grit and creating some grit,” Meyer said. “We have quite a bit on this team and we just have to grind these games out. Good teams can do that and we are just trying to establish that right now.”
Like Meyer, Cocks believes Westmont can be a team to make noise in the playoffs.
“We understand we have to get going and peak at the right time and hopefully we can do it because we have the talent to do it and the arms to do it,” he said.