LANSING | A month ago, Matt Dykstra and his Illiana Christian teammates didn't think they would win a regional title.
After all, the Vikings had won just one nonconference game heading into the postseason. In the Class 3A Bremen Regional opener against Thornridge, Illiana picked up a sloppily played 10-6 win.
"We were down 6-0 and it didn't look good," Dykstra said. "We looked bad, but we just chipped away and got back into the game."
It was Dykstra who came through big time with home runs against favored Bremen in a regional semifinal and against Rich Central in the championship.
"I have to say it feels good to get a big hit when your team needs it and to come through," Dykstra said. "I like being in that position when the game is on the line."
His sixth-inning homer against Bremen was the game-winner and the one vs. Rich Central expanded a lead. He had one home run in the regular season.
Illiana faces favored Lemont at 4 p.m. today in one semifinal of the Lincoln-Way West Sectional.
"Matt has been a big plus for us with the bat and in the field," Vikings coach Dan Gibson said. "He can hit, but he has saved (us) a few times with his scoops on low throws in the dirt. He is a big target at first base."
Dykstra, an imposing 6-foot-5, said someone might not think he is good with the glove.
"They see my size and think I am in the lineup for my bat," Dykstra said. "I can hit, but I worked a lot on my fielding and scooping throws out of the dirt. I really pride myself on my defense."
Earlier in the year, he struggled at clean-up and moved to the No. 8 spot. He's made adjustments.
"I see a lot more fastballs, and I am really comfortable wherever Coach has me hit," Dykstra said. "Right now, I am driving the ball well and putting us in a position to score."
He said the Vikings do have their work cut out for them, but their schedule has also prepared them for the challenge.
"We played Mount Carmel, Andrean and a lot of good nonconference teams," Dykstra said. "I really think that helped us for the postseason. Lemont is going to be a tough game and they are a real good team."