Providence caps improbable run with Class 4A state championship

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

JOLIET – Call it improbable. Call it shocking. Call it redemption. But whatever you call it, you can’t say that No. 6 Providence didn’t deserve to win the Class 4A state championship.

The Celtics capped their amazing playoff run Saturday night by knocking off No. 1 S. Rita, 4-1 – the same St. Rita club that had beaten them three times during the regular season – behind a stellar pitching performance by senior right-hander Jake Godfrey in front of a packed crowd at Silver Cross Field.

The Celtics (28-14), who finished fifth in the rugged Chicago Catholic Blue, who lost to conference rival St. Rita by a combined 32-6 score in three games, who lost three straight games heading into the playoffs, earned their first state championship since 1982 by knocking off one top-ranked team after another.

“I’m part speechless,” said Providence coach Mark Smith, whose heavily favored 2011 club fell in the state championship to Lyons Township. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. As young as they are, they just believed in themselves.

“To bring the state trophy back to New Lenox is one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

No one could be happier to hoist the state trophy over his head than Godfrey (7-6), the Celtics’ LSU-bound ace who endured an up-and-down season amid heavy speculation about the MLB Draft. Godfrey’s lowest point came against the St. Rita (37-5) on May 3, when, pitching before a packed house of pro scouts, the Mustangs blasted four home runs against Godfrey in a 14-1 loss and knocked him out after the first inning.

Godfrey was a different pitcher on Saturday. Despite closing out the 8-7 state semifinal victory against Prairie Ridge on Friday, Godfrey carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and settled for a two-hitter with six strikeouts, one walk, and two hit batsmen. After feeding St. Rita’s offense a steady diet of curveballs, sliders and changeups, he still had enough in the tank to dial his fastball up to 92 mph in the seventh inning.

“They’re a fastball-hunting team,” said Godfrey. “We came back with a little different approach. … Baseball works in weird ways. Get touched up in one game, and then you come back and have a no-hitter through six innings.”

Then there’s Dylan Rosa, the Kent State-bound third baseman who had delivered all season long for the Celtics, including the game-winning three-run double in the bottom of the seventh to knock off Edwardsville in the supersectional. Rosa did it again Saturday, ripping the only home run of the state tournament – a first-pitch curveball from Jake Shepski (7-2) – to left field that broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning.

“I was looking for a fastball but he kind of hung it,” said Rosa, who finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

Providence added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh on Ben Salvador’s RBI single and sophomore Zach Pych’s suicide squeeze bunt.

Second baseman Mike Madej, one of four sophomores in the Celtics’ lineup, went 3-for-3 and made a diving catch to rob Shepski of a hit in the fourth inning.

Providence came out the gates scoring a run in the first inning when Rosa delivered a two-out single. Madej followed with a bunt single, and Cam Galgano scored Rosa on a single to right field.

St. Rita tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning when Godfrey walked Anthony Faron with one out. Shortly after, Faron advanced two bases to third base on a wild pitch. Second baseman Chris Delgadillo’s groundout to second base scored Faron to tie the game.

St. Rita put runners on second and third in the sixth, but Godfrey got out of the inning with a groundout to Madej. Then Godfrey put the final touches of his complete game by retiring the seventh in order.

For St. Rita, which was ranked No. 1 for the majority of the season, the Mustangs took home a second-place trophy for the third time in six years.

“After you get lit up by a team, I think (Godfrey) has a real edge,” said St. Rita coach Mike Zunica. “This is a tricky, tricky sport.”

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