Prep Baseball Report

Villasenor Pitches Providence To All CCL-Blue State Final With Mount Carmel

By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

JOLIET, IL – With four straight one-run victories, the defending Class 4A champions Providence Catholic may be giving coach Mark Smith some early gray hairs, but he’ll take it, as the Celtics advanced to the state championship with a 1-0 victory over Oak Park-River Forest. Providence outlasted the Huskies behind a complete game two-hitter from senior righthander Brenton Villasenor and an RBI-double to right center by senior centerfielder Matt Diehl on Friday night in the Class 4A state semifinals.

“It was a great game, well-pitched, well-played on defense by both teams. It came down to one big play. Diehl provided it with the double and Brenton pound the zone. You can ask for anything more,” said Smith.

Locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel between Villasenor and OPRF’s junior righthander Hank Christie, neither team could muster much offensively early on. Christie carried a perfect game heading into the fourth, until Providence junior second baseman Mike Madej broke it up with a single to left field. After an error put runners on first and second with one out, Christie navigated through trouble with a flyout to center and a fielder’s choice to short.

OPRF coach Chris Ledbetter said, “You have to play great baseball to win against this type of competition. I couldn’t be more proud of Hank and all our guys. These last two outings he has been unhittable”.

Matching Christie pitch-for-pitch was Providence’s senior ace Villasenor. The University of Chicago-signee also carried a no-hitter into the fourth, where he allowed his only two hits of the game, back-to-back singles by OPRF rightfielder Ryan Fish and catcher Patrick Rumoro. Fish was cut down attempting to steal at second base before Rumoro’s single, and the inning ended on a lineout to Madej, who made a solid leaping grab on Evan Bell’s liner.

Junior third baseman Zach Pych led off the bottom of the fifth and reached first base after being hit by a Christie offering. Junior designated hitter Jackson Dvorak then sacrificed Pych to second base. Christie picked up the second out of the inning with a swinging strikeout on a hard slider down in the zone, bringing the Celtics’ senior nine-hole hitter Diehl to the plate.

Diehl, not your typical “punch and judy” high school nine-hole hitter, entered the game hitting .323 on the year with three homers and four doubles. After fouling off two pitches, Diehl worked the at-bat to a full count. The senior outfielder launched the seventh pitch of the at bat to deep right-center field into the wind, outside of the reach of OPRF center fielder Chris Atwood, scoring Pych and giving Villasenor all the support he would need.

“After the first couple innings and seeing the way he (Christie) was pitching, I knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel”, said Villasenor. “I wanted to work quick and speed up the game”.

Working fast was Villasenor’s specialty on this night, pounding the strike zone with three quality offerings, highlighted by an 84-86 mph fastball and a 75-78 mph slider, which he held into the seventh. After Diehl’s huge hit, the Celtics’ ace retired six straight OPRF hitters in order to end the game. All told, Villasenor (9-3) struck out seven, walked two, and threw 64 of his 98 pitches for strikes in an incredibly efficient outing.

Christie drops to 7-2, taking the tough luck loss only allowing two hits in his six innings, with one walk and three strikeouts. Like Villasenor, Christie pounded the zone throwing 61 of 95 pitches for strikes, leading to a quick and clean high school ball game played in one-hour and thirty-two minutes.

Smith added, “I’m not surprised by these kids, they never cease to amaze me. Some of these guys have been with me for two years already, and through the ups and downs they never panicked. You can’t teach it it’s just inside them. They aren’t flashy, they aren’t superstars, they’re just hard-nosed ballplayers”.

No. 7 Providence will meet No. 2 Mount Carmel in an all Catholic League-Blue final for the second consecutive year (last year the Celtics defeated CCL-Blue member St. Rita in the title game) tomorrow at 5:30 pm at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. Mount Carmel won both meetings during the regular season, two close, hard fought games 3-1 and 2-1.

“On paper they are the most talented team in the state. I said it last year so maybe it will work again, but we just have to be the most talented team on one day,” said Smith.

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