Prep Baseball Report

Class 4A State Semifinal Preview

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

Back on May 26, 163 Class 4A schools set out on “The Road to Joliet.” In another David takes out Goliath Class 4A tournament, only four schools remain. There are more Cinderella’s in Joliet this weekend than there are Prince Charmings. When 26-14 Providence takes on 24-16 Prairie Ridge on Friday in Semifinal One, a new IHSA record, regardless of class, will be set for most combined losses by both teams in a semifinal matchup. Semifinal 2 will feature No.1 St. Rita (36-4) against Cinderella South Elgin (24-10). The 44 combined losses by the Final Four participants ranks second to only the 1982 Class A Final 4 led by 42-16 State Champion Providence, 20-10 Hillsboro,16-16 Beardstown and Granville Putnam County (27-8), who combined for 50 losses.

Semifinal One Silver Cross Field Joliet, 3 p.m.

No. 6 Providence (26-14) vs. Prairie Ridge (24-16)
Providence -
After finishing in fifth place in the mighty Chicago Catholic League Blue Division, Providence coach Mark Smith made a prophetic message to me on May 24.”We are so close. All 14 of our losses are to state-ranked teams and to the No. 1 team in Indiana,” said Smith. “If we can play just a little bit better, we can make some noise in the upcoming Class 4A tournament.” Heck, the Celtics didn’t play just a little bit better, they played a whole lot better in winning the Lockport Regional on May 31 and the Andrew Sectional, destroying then-No.1 Lincoln-Way North 9-3 in the Andrew final. On Monday, at the University of Illinois, Kent State-bound Dylan Rosa’s walk-off three-run double ousted No 5 Edwardsville and sent the Celtics home to Silver Cross Field in neighboring Joliet.

Rosa has punished opposing pitchers at a .403 clip with 10 bombs and 52 RBI. Rosa can pitch, too, and was the winner in the big win over Lincoln Way North. Rosa is 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA for the Celtics. Middle Tennessee State-bound Phil Kunsa has hit 11 bombs this season and driven home 46 with a solid .369 average at the plate. Providence’s 21st-round draft pick RHP Jake Godfrey had an up and down senior season with a 6-6 mark with a 3.02 ERA. Godfrey had 90 strikeouts and 36 walks in his 65 inning of work this spring.

Smith is in his eighth season at his alma mater, Providence ‘89, compiling a 202-98 mark with a second-place finish in the 2011 Class 4A State Tournament. Providence has won a pair of Class A state championships under the venerable Jaime Garcia. The Celtics won in 1978 and again in the aforementioned 1982 state title.

Prairie Ridge - Back on April 9 after suffering a 3-2 defeat to Mundelein, the Wolves were 2-8. On May 5, a mediocre 9-14, and then after a 15-5 pounding by Grant on May 12, the Wolves would not lose again. A 10-game winning streak, which included the Grayslake North Regional, McHenry Sectional and the Rockford Supersectional championships catapulted Cinderella to the Ball in Joliet on Friday.

Junior RHP Ben Cilano has been lights out on the mound in the tournament, winning three games for the Wolves. Cilano has compiled a 5-0 record with a miniscule 0.65 ERA. Cilano has fanned 57 in his 53.2 innings pitched for PR. Senior LHP Austin Covers is 3-0 with an equally impressive 0.63 ERA.

Senior 1B Marcus Sargeant has been clutch during the Wolves’ memorable postseason run. Sargeant is hitting .319 with a homer and 27 RBI. Senior Kyle Buresch chips in with a .296 average with a homer and 27 RBI.

Pecararo is in his 14th season at the school with a record of 338-179. Prairie Ridge took the Class 4A state championship trophy back to Crystal Lake under the tutelage of Dave Haskins in 2008.

Semifinal Two Silver Cross Field Joliet, 5:30 p.m.

No. 1 St. Rita (36-4) vs. South Elgin (24-10)
St. Rita -
Notre Dame-bound Jake Shepski has taken the Mustangs to Joliet. In a six-day period between Wednesday, June 4 through Monday, June 9, the two-way talent won two games and saved another for the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division co-champions. A five-hit shutout against No.12 Lyons Township on June 4 was followed by his ninth save in nine save opportunities against arch-rival Mount Carmel to take home the Class 4A Reavis Sectional championship on Saturday. On Monday, another complete-game masterpiece was delivered by the senior right-hander, this time a six-hitter in the Mustangs thrilling 2-1 Standard Bank Stadium supersectional win over Downers Grove South, in Crestwood. In three games Shepski pitched 17 innings, allowing one run, 13 hits, with 10 strikeouts and three bases on balls. For the season Shepski is 7-1 with a 1.35 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched.

Austin Peay-bound lefty Mike Costanzo has been the ace of the Mustang staff with a 10-2 mark with a 1.64 ERA. Costanzo has 96 punchouts in his 72.2 innings of work this season.

Shepski can hit, too, as evidenced by his robust .405 average with 12 doubles, seven triples, five homers and a team-leading 48 RBI.

Future University of Pittsburgh punter, senior 1B Nick Goldsmith is hitting .413 with nine doubles, two triples, nine bombs and 46 RBI. University of Tennessee-recruit 3B Tyler Halas is hitting .355 with a pair of bombs and 36 RBI. Halas is also 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA on the mound for St. Rita. Sophomore Danny Gleaves leads the Mustang attack with a .541 average with 17 RBI and 28 stolen bases.

St. Rita coach Mike Zunica is in his 18th season at 7740 South Western Avenue in Chicago with a 530-168 record. The Mustangs took home back-to-back Class 4A second-place trophies back to the South Side of Chicago in 2009 & 2010. This is the fifth trip to state for the Mustangs.

South Elgin- The equally surprising “Saga of the Storm” from South Elgin did not look to be a reality when the Storm sat at 6-7 after a loss to Geneva on April 30. A seven-game Upstate 8 Conference Valley Division winning-streak righted the ship and the Storm enter Friday’s semifinal on the winds of a 10-game winning streak.

The Storm breezed through the Hoffman Estates Regional and Schaumburg Sectional, outscoring their four opponents 39-4. Evanston gave the Storm a battle before falling 7-6 in Monday’s Schaumburg Supersectional.

The Storm is led by their University of Michigan-bound RHP Ryan Nutof. The future Wolverine hurler is 8-0 with a 0.39 ERA. Nutof has 102 punchouts in his 71 innings of work. Nutof adds a little pop at the plate with a .320 average with four bombs and a team-leading  21 RBI. Nutof is expected to toe the rubber against top-ranked St. Rita on Friday.

Junior Antonio Danesi has also plated 21 Storm runs with a .322 average while junior Dane Toppel leads the Storm attack with a .410 average with seven doubles and 17 RBI. 6-foot-3 junior Max Keough is the Storm’s solid No. 2 with a 5-1 record with a 1.66 ERA.

South Elgin Head Coach Jim Kating is in his eighth year at the Cook County school with a 146-115-2 mark. This is the Storm’s first trip to State.

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