Baseball: Oak Park’s Nick Kowalczuk and Lyons’ Keith Lehmann head to Michigan
Oak Park's Nick Kowalczuk (230 connects on the ball vs Downers Grove North. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:48AM
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Nick Kowalczuk and Keith Lehmann have battled against each other several times as West Suburban Silver rivals.
Now that they have decided to attend the same university, the senior infielders are talking about sharing a room.
Lehmann, the ace of Lyons’ pitching staff and a third baseman, verbally committed Aug. 14 to play for Michigan in 2014. Kowalczuk, a first baseman and cleanup hitter for Oak Park-River Forest, committed to Michigan Aug. 5.
Their decisions came as a coincidence, since they never played on the same offseason summer league team. But they are becoming quick friends after seeing each other at prospect showcases around the Midwest.
“We’ve talked a lot,” Kowalczuk said. “We’ve decided to become roommates. I think it’s pretty cool (coming from rival teams).”
OPRF defeated Lyons 4-3 June 9 to win the Class 4A state championship at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Kowalczuk went 1-for-2 with a double and Lehmann scored a run.
Kowalczuk finished the season by batting .374 with 36 RBI, while Lehmann hit .342 with seven home runs and 36 RBI.
Lehmann led Lyons to the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association Lawler Classic championship last month.
Choosing Michigan might have been tougher on Lehmann’s father, Art, a Michigan State graduate.
“I think he’s proud of me,” said Lehmann, a Western Springs resident. “It does not bother him.”
Lehmann visited Michigan with his father two weeks before making a commitment to coach Erik Bakich, who was hired by Wolverines June 27 after coaching at Maryland.
“We checked the campus out. I knew they wanted me,” said Lehmann. “I fell in love with it. With a whole new coaching staff, I liked it. It felt comfortable.”
“I like their whole philosophy,” said Kowalczuk, who hopes to study economics or finance. “It feels good for what I want. I know they want to win, but they are all good guys. The facilities were awesome.”
Both Kowalczuk and Lehmann wanted to make their decisions before school starts this week.
Kowalczuk was recruited by Michigan State and actually considered the Spartans a finalist. Lehmann said MSU showed an initial interest, but did not make a strong financial offer.
According to prepbaseballreport.com, Lehmann is ranked No. 5 among Illinois recruits from the Class of 2013. Kowalczuk is ranked No. 14. ~.