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Baseball: Providence, Minooka ride late rallies to victory at WJOL tourney

Providence's Charlie Gross takes pickoff throw as Plainfield Central's  Mitch Young dives first base. | John Booz~For Sun-Times Media

Providence's Charlie Gross takes a pickoff throw as Plainfield Central's Mitch Young dives to first base. | John Booz~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 1, 2013 2:44PM



Perhaps it is true. At this time of year, pitching is ahead of hitting.

That was the case Thursday in the quarterfinal doubleheader at Providence as the ninth annual WJOL Area Baseball Invite kicked into gear.

Providence scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie, then had to hold on for a 5-3 victory over Plainfield Central. In the second game, defending and three-time champion Minooka (1-1) scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to snap a 1-1 tie en route to a 3-1 victory over Joliet Catholic (0-2).

No. 10 Plainfield Central will meet No. 2 Joliet Catholic at 9 a.m. Saturday at Providence in a consolation semifinals, while No. 3 Providence (2-1) battles No. 1 Minooka in the championship semifinal at 11:30 a.m., a rematch of the Celtics’ 6-3 victory Saturday. The place games are scheduled Saturday afternoon and night at Silver Cross Field.

Backing Yianni

Providence right-hander Yianni Pavlopoulos threw six shutout innings, but until the Celtics’ five-run uprising Plainfield Central left-hander Tomas Aguilar was just as effective.

Aguilar walked Phil Kunsa and Devin Williams to open the sixth and was replaced by right-hander Christian Armstrong. Dylan Rosa’s second hit loaded the bases, designated hitter Steve Gruszkowski and pinch-hitter Brian Jenner drilled consecutive two-run doubles and pinch-hitter Shawn Cavallone singled in the fifth run.

“I felt good at the plate,” Gruszkowski said. “I’m seeing the ball well. I’ve been working at trying to drive the ball the other way.”

The right-handed hitter’s decisive double landed in deep right-center field. The previous at-bat, in the bottom of the fourth, he grounded to third with runners on second and third and one out.

“He (Aguilar) left me a hanging curve, and I didn’t get the results I wanted with it,” Gruszkowski said.

Pavlopoulos allowed three hits, struck out 12 and walked one although he did hit three batters, two on consecutive pitches in the first inning. Central (1-1) stranded 11 runners, nine during Pavlopoulos’ six innings.

“My curve was my go-to pitch,” Pavlopoulos said. “They weren’t hitting it well, so I threw it in important situations.”

The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth, but Pavlopoulos struck out two straight hitters to escape.

“Yianni pitched a heck of a game,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “He made good pitches to get out of innings until we were able to scratch out some runs.”

Central’s Austin Blazevic stroked a two-run single off Providence reliever Kyle Crawford in the top of the seventh, and a run scored on a two-out error to make it 5-3. With the potential go-ahead run at the plate, right-hander Jake Godfrey, the likely starter Saturday against Minooka, entered and struck out the final batter.

“We had three hits before the seventh inning, five in all and left too many on base,” Wildcats coach John Rosner said. “Aguilar was challenging their guys, keeping them off balance with his breaking ball. He was out of gas in the sixth, and it didn’t work out when we relieved him.”

Mad Max

Joliet Catholic right-hander Sam Couch worked five innings, allowing three hits, including Max Brozovich’s two doubles. The first drove in a first-inning run for a 1-0 lead.

With the score at 1 in the sixth after Rylan Bannon’s sacrifice fly in the third tied it, Minooka loaded the bases with nobody out against reliever Kyle Polaski. Left-hander Aaron Markley entered to face the left-handed-hitting Brozovich, but to no avail. He made it 2-1 with his third hit, and Steve Wittkamp followed with an RBI single.

That was after a disputed double play ended the top of the sixth and prevented Joliet Catholic from taking a 2-1 lead.

“Pitchers are always ahead of hitters at this time,” Brozovich said. “I just felt good at the plate (Thursday). We got the good, timely hits.”

“The thing about Max is he is a great athlete,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “You don’t look at him as all baseball. He’s a very good football player and he probably could play basketball, soccer, everything. But better than that, he’s a great kid, a great person. That’s what I’m most proud of my kids about.”

Tyler Desmaris had two of Minooka’s seven hits, including a bunt single to help fill the bases in the sixth.

The Indians used the same pitchers, in the same order, they employed in the season-opening loss to Providence. Mitch Vogrin worked four innings, lefty Josh Mitchell one and Steve Szymanski two.

“I don’t know about Mitch, but Josh and Steve may see plenty of action Saturday,” Petrovic said.

Joliet Catholic finished with three hits. But as coach Jared Voss noted, “We hit some balls hard that were right at people. The kids battled at the plate, which was good to see. I thought we came out with a lot of energy.

“Couch did a great job, too, just like Cal Placher did (Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to Marmion), and I’m sure Matt Testa will do Saturday. We’ll be OK.”



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