Baseball: Providence slump continues vs. St. Laurence
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org April 20, 2013 11:34PM
St. Laurence's Ryan Rybakowski is safe at first base after colliding with Providence second baseman Steve Gruszkowski during St. Laurence's 12-1 victory Saturday in New Lenox. | Ray Luna~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 20, 2013 2:32AM
Providence senior right-hander Yianni Pavlopoulos pitched for the first time in 11 days and looked good.
Nick Sanders, the No. 3 hitter in the Providence lineup, hit the ball hard all day, though with nothing to show for it.
That pretty well summarizes the positives on a miserable Saturday for the Celtics as Catholic League Blue adversary St. Laurence delivered a 12-1 knockout punch at Tom Dedin Field.
“I was happy with Yianni,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “He had oral surgery and lost 13 pounds because he couldn’t eat. He was gassed when he came out in the third inning. But he competed.”
Pavlopoulos left with Providence (8-5, 2-2) trailing St. Laurence senior right-hander Zach Lewis 2-0.
The Vikings (14-3, 7-0), who host the Celtics on Monday, then had four-run innings in the fourth and sixth against the Providence bullpen to blow it open.
“It was a 2-0 game and then they get four runs on one hit,” Smith said of the St. Laurence fourth. “We’re in a funk. We made five errors again today and our relievers are walking too many. Things are not going our way and we are creating bad situations.”
From the other perspective, Vikings coach Pete Lotus was pleased with his team’s ability to create offense.
“I thought we had some good at-bats,” he said. “We got a big bunt down and ran the bases. We did a great job creating runs.”
Lewis (4-1), also the cleanup hitter, singled home runs in the first and third innings to stake himself to the 2-0 lead. Roger Wilson singled to lead off the four-run fourth and Kevin White’s double ignited the four-run sixth.
Providence had chances early, stranding two runners in each of the first three innings. The Celtics, who were coming off Tuesday’s 11-2 loss to Joliet Catholic and have dropped three straight, had difficulty squaring up Lewis’ fastball, which is in the 90-91 mph range.
“I threw a couple offspeed pitches,” Lewis said. “But I recognized they were not hitting the fastball, so I kept challenging them. I probably threw 95 percent fastballs. I figured why throw offspeed pitches and speed up their bats.”
Lewis, who struck out six and walked five, threw 100 pitches in six innings. Providence’s run came in the fifth on Phil Kunsa’s long double to left field. That was one of three hits the Celtics mustered.
“That’s one of the things we’re going to talk about,” Smith said. “We hadn’t seen that kind of velocity this year, but when the kid’s throwing 90 percent fastballs, we should hit it.”
Smith, who said he has more questions than answers at this point, used Craig Dankovich at third base, Billy Quirke at shortstop and Steve Gruszkowski at second. More often than not, Quirke has been at second, Devin Williams at short and Dylan Rosa at third.
“We’re trying some different things,” Smith said. “Dankovich did OK at third. I’m still trying to find other guys who can field a ground ball and then make the good throw.
“The problem is more mental now. We have 22 games left so we’ll be playing a lot. This spell is a test of our character. The kids are down, they’re hurting, but we’ll keep working at it.”