No. 6 Providence's wild ride continues, advances to 4A title game

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

JOLIET, IL - At quick glance, Providence seems like an unlikely candidate to be playing for the Class 4A state championship. An up-and-down season saw the Celtics lose 14 games and finish fifth in the tough Chicago Catholic Blue.

But after enduring a potentially devastating controversial call in the first inning, No. 6 Providence held off Prairie Ridge, 8-7, Friday in Class 4A state semifinal at Silver Cross Field to cap an incredible playoff run in which the Celtics knocked off one ranked opponent after another.

“I didn’t think we would be here right now,” said senior right-hander pitcher Dylan Rosa of the Celtics’ roller-coaster season. “It’s going our way right now.”

The Celtics (27-14) will now play for its first state championship since 1982 after they fell short in the championship game in 2011.

But it was far from easy on Friday. Providence finally broke through against Prairie Ridge left-hander Austin Covers in the fifth inning with two runs to tie the game at 2-2. The Celtics proceeded to pile on six runs in the sixth, only to see Prairie Ridge (24-17) make a furious comeback in the top of the seventh against starter Dylan Rosa, who had allowed only one hit through six innings, and then star right-hander Jake Godfrey. With Prairie Ridge having cut the lead to 8-7 and runners on first and second, Godfrey rolled a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

“It was a microcosm of our entire season,” said Providence coach Mark Smith. “My slogan is – and the kids love it – it’s just what we do. We don’t make anything easy.”

Providence’s outlook appeared especially bleak after Prairie Ridge scored a run to open the game. Then, in the bottom half of the first, outfielder Phil Kunsa, who entered the game with 11 homers, 12 doubles and 46 RBI, collided with Prairie Ridge first baseman Marcus Sargeant on a throw up the baseline. Kunsa raised his arms to brace himself, and the umpire interpreted it as malicious contact and immediately ejected Kunsa from the game. The ejection also means that Kunsa will be out for the championship game as well.

“I thought it was a terrible call,” Smith said. “We will appeal it.”

And it looked like the call had affected the Celtics, too, as Covers had Providence’s offense shut down. Then, in the fifth, their fortunes shifted when Godfrey led off the inning with a routine grounder to third base, but at the last second it took a bad hop over Cal Aldridge’s head, and Godfrey had a hustle-double. A bloop single by Justin Hunniford and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third. Covers had sophomore third baseman Zach Pych down 0-2, and made a good pitch that could’ve been strike three. Pych then delivered a two-run single in which he wrist-flicked it to right field to tie the game at 2-2.

Providence then exploded for six runs on six hits, capped by a Rosa two-run single. Rosa, who struck out six, walked four and allowed five earned runs, finished 2-for-3. Godfrey and Hunniford also had two hits and an RBI.

Sargeant drove in two runs in the first three innings to give Prairie Ridge a 2-0 lead. Covers added a two-hit in the Wolves’ five-run seventh inning.

“You have to be good to get here,” said Smith. “Except us. I guess we’re just lucky.”

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