Baseball: Brauer leads Lincoln-Way East to berth in state tournament

Eric Brauer

LOCKPORT – After leading Chicago Christian to third place in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament this spring, Eric Brauer took over the Lincoln-Way East baseball team, just three weeks ago. Replacing longtime Griffins coach Paul Babcock, Brauer had a major job to do in a short period of time.

“We were not even in a summer league,” Brauer said. “We were able to get three games played in the last week to qualify for the [Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association/Phil Lawler] summer state tournament.”

After winning 256 games in nine years at Chicago Christian, including the 40-2 Knights in 2017, Brauer brought his 2-1 Griffins into the Lockport Regional as the No. 9 seed. The Griffins’ reward was a trip to Plainfield South on July 10 to face the defending IHSBCA/Lawler summer state champions.

Rain washed out Monday’s visit to South, and the Griffins went on to whip the Cougars, 3-1, last Tuesday morning.

East then went to Lockport and defeated No. 4 seed Plainfield Central, 8-7, in a Lockport Regional quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, after a 40-minute rain delay, the Knights fell behind top-seeded Minooka, 7-0, after one inning. 

“We never felt at any time like we were out of the game,” Griffin hitting star Matt Watson said.

The Griffins trailed, 9-7, heading into the top of the seventh. Watson’s clutch two-out, two-run double tied the game at 9-9, and the Griffins went on to win, 10-9, on a pair of Minooka miscues. 

On Wednesday night, No. 2 seed Lockport scored three runs in the bottom of the first and led, 3-0. Again the Griffins rallied and went on to an 8-5 regional championship win. 

“We have a 40-man summer roster, and we had to use just about every one of them,” Brauer said. “Winning four games in about 36 hours was an absolutely amazing accomplishment. I am so proud of what we accomplished, and we are looking for more success in the Phil Lawler. 

“To defeat the defending Lawler summer state champs and then the No. 4, No. 1 and No 2 seeds in an outstanding regional was amazing.”

The 6-1 Griffins will take on Fenwick regional champion Glenbard West at 12:30 p.m. Monday at North Central College in Naperville in the opening round of the summer state tournament.