No. 7 Providence Rallies (Again) To Edge Marian Catholic

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

CHICAGO –  No. 6 Providence certainly has the flair for postseason dramatics, dating back to last season when the Celtics made their improbable run to the Class 4A state championship.

Coach Mark Smith’s crew is at it again, this time his Celtics pulled out their second straight comeback victory after they scored four runs in the sixth inning to defeat Marian Catholic, 4-3, in the Marist Sectional championship game before a packed crowd Saturday.

Last week, Providence (28-11) scored two runs in the seventh inning to send the game into extra innings before defeating host Marist in walk-off fashion in the ninth.

“The thing I like about this team is we have five starters back from last year who have been through all the trials and tribulations,” said Smith. “I don’t think they panic. They have kind of gotten used to it.”

The Celtics were once again staring down the barrel of elimination against an upstart Marian Catholic (22-15-1) club thanks to an impressive performance by sophomore right-hander Mark DiLuia. Remarkably composed for his age, DiLuia kept the Celtics off-balance with a three-pitch mix that consisted of a mid-80s fastball that topped at 87 mph, a 70-74 mph slider that he threw with more confidence as the game wore on, and a straight change.

Trailing 1-0 heading into the sixth, the Celtics finally showed signs of life when junior shortstop Jackson Stulas led off with a double down the left field line. For the first time since the first inning, DiLuia fell out of rhythm and hit the next two batters who were looking to lay down a sacrifice bunt, effectively loading the bases. Junior left fielder Matt Waznis lifted a fly out to centerfield that scored Stulas to tie the game at 1-1.

Tom KelleyDiLuia got the next hitter to ground out, and walked Justin Hunniford to again load the bases, bringing up junior right fielder Tom Kelley (right). The two battled the count full before Kelley lofted a bases-clearing double to the left-center gap to give the Celtics a 4-1 advantage.

“I was pretty nervous, but I tried to calm myself down and get a good pitch to hit,” said Kelley, who finished 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBI. “We just find ways to win. It’s just the Providence way.”

Meanwhile, Providence senior right-hander Brent Villasenor, too, was cruising along for the most part until the seventh inning. Marian Catholic responded with three hits in the seventh inning, including a run-scoring double by senior outfielder Christopher Austin and a RBI single by sophomore shortstop Dan Gutierrez to make it 4-3. With the tying run on first base, Villasenor ended the rally with a strikeout.

Villasenor, a University of Chicago recruit, yielded six hits, struck out four and walked four in his complete-game victory.

The Celtics only managed three hits against DiLuia, who struck out five, walked three and hit three batters. DiLuia also did it at the plate, as he went 2-for-3, which included a run-scoring single up the middle to break the scoreless tie in the fourth.

“That kid was a lot better than what the scouting report said,” said Smith of DiLuia. “The biggest thing about him was his poise.”

Providence now advances to play No. 15 O’Fallon in the supersectional at Cornbelters Stadium in Normal on Monday. O’Fallon advanced by defeating Minooka 6-0. Providence is seeking its third state appearance in five years.

Related Content

----IL 6.16.15 ProspectID slide - 6.16.15PROSPECTidslide_final.jpg