No. 15 Providence rallies past Joliet West 2-1 in WJOL Semi-Final

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

MINOOKA - The defending Illinois Class 4A state champions from Providence Catholic rallied past a gritty Joliet West squad 2-1 on a Jackson Dvorak walk-off single in eight thrilling innings on Saturday.

In a classic pitcher’s duel, Joliet West senior right-hander Griffin McGuire was outdueling Providence’s senior right-hander Justin Hunniford. Joliet West had scored the lone run of the game on an errant pickoff throw from Hunniford, scoring Tiger designated hitter Cody Grosse (3-for-4, run scored) in the third inning.

The game moved to the bottom of the seventh with McGuire working on a two-hit shutout.  

With one out, disaster struck McGuire and the Tigers. A fly ball off the bat of Celtic center fielder Dave Diehl was dropped in right field. Diehl, running at full speed from the beginning, raced all the way to third. Junior Brendan O’Hara followed with a line drive up the middle, into centerfield, scoring Diehl with the tying run.

“Coach Carlson told me to look for a slider, which I got and ripped into center to get the tying run home,” O’Hara said.    

Providence winning pitcher Brent Villasenor (2-0) completed his second 1-2-3 inning, in relief in the Tiger eighth. Villasenor was lights-out in relief of Hunniford, striking out three of the six Tiger batters he retired. Hunniford was outstanding as well, allowing an unearned run and four hits in his six stellar innings on the mound.  

“My fastball was really working today,” Villasenor said. “Huge to come back the way we did. It was the first time we faced adversity and really came through. The championship game with JCA should be great tonight. Both schools hate each other. For all the marbles. Great!”  

McGuire (seven innings, one unearned run, three hits, five strikeouts, no walks) was replaced by junior Matthew Meier, to start the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Zach Pych singled to right. Mike Madej walked. Junior catcher Jimmy Jeffries moved both runners up with a ground out. Up to the plate stepped Jackson Dvorak. Dvorak, fresh off a two-homer, six RBI game in the Celtics 18-7 WJOL/Ladas Memorial quarterfinal destruction of defending WJOL/Ladas champs from Minooka on Thursday, ripped a shot past the third baseman. A jubilant Pych danced home with the Celtic walk-off winner.

“I’ve been seeing the ball really well lately,” Dvorak said. “I was loose at the plate and hit the ball hard for the game-winner.”

“Its a shame. Griff gave it everything he had against the defending state champs,” Joliet West coach John Karczewski said. “He’s a real fighter. We had some opportunities to score more runs that ended up costing us. Cody Grosse is one of the greatest pure hitters in Joliet West history and the state.”

“It was a good high school baseball game,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “Griff McGuire was outstanding for West and Justin (Hunniford) was just as outstanding. Can’t say enough about Jackson Dvorak right now. JCA is a great team and it should be an outstanding championship game.” 

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