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Disabato: Confident Providence having a ball in postseason

Dylan RosProvidence | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

Dylan Rosa, of Providence | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 13, 2014 5:12PM



When Providence was sitting 16-12 and languishing near the bottom of the rugged Catholic League Blue standings, a postseason run appeared about as likely as seeing St. Rita coach Mike Zunica guide his team most of the season without a front tooth.

Guess what? The Celtics have advanced to the Class 4A Final Four and Zunica, bless him, remains toothless until the effects of an old hockey injury are corrected. Ah, the sacrifices a man will make to remain handsome.

So how is it that a Providence team that finishes fifth in the Catholic Blue is one of four teams, along with St. Rita, remaining in the Class 4A playoffs?

By getting quality pitching and clutch hitting, that’s how.

I shake my head when others call Providence’s playoff run a Cinderella story. Granted, the Celtics were 21-14 when the postseason started and seeded No. 6 in their sectional. The Cinderella assertion, though, is inaccurate.

While expecting a five-game winning streak during the postseason might have been a bit of a stretch, the Celtics had it in them to produce such a streak. And if you read my column on May 29, I predicted as much.

Here’s the deal. One would be hard-pressed to find two better run-producers than Dylan Rosa and Phil Kunsa, Providence’s Nos. 3 and 4 hitters who have combined to drive in nearly 100 runs on the season and have delivered during the playoffs. Also, as far as pitchers go, few have the arsenal of Jake Godfrey, whose fastball approaches the mid-90s. Godfrey may have been inconsistent during the regular season, but he’s pitched like an ace during the playoffs.

“It all comes back to confidence,” said Providence coach Mark Smith, whose Celtics play at 3 p.m. Friday vs. Prairie Ridge at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. “When we were struggling, we had no confidence. We couldn’t catch a break. But when things started to turn, the kids started gaining confidence. Right now, we’re a confident team.”

And a dangerous one.

Monday’s come-from-behind victory over Edwardsville was one for the ages. The Celtics trailed 4-1 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. There wasn’t a hint of a comeback in the air.

However, a two-out single and a walk, followed by a clutch two-run double by Cam Galgano, set the wheels in motion for a comeback. Rosa later capped it off with a thrilling three-run, walk-off triple for a 6-5 win.

“We’re making plays and playing loose,” Galgano said. “We’re not pressing. We’re playing with more confidence and just letting things happen.”

If there was an award for clutch playoff performances, Rosa already would have won it. Besides Monday’s clutch hit, the senior first baseman/pitcher clubbed a go-ahead two-run double during a 4-2 win over Lockport in the regional semifinal, socked a game-winning solo home run in the ninth inning during a 5-4 win over Brother Rice in the regional championship and produced a go-ahead two-run single during a 9-3 win over Lincoln-Way North in the sectional final.

“I try to be a leader on this team,” Rosa said. “I try to do it all for these guys. Just do the best I can.”

Most impressive is the quality of opponents Providence has left in its wake. Lockport won the SouthWest Suburban Blue, Brother Rice finished above the Celtics in the Catholic Blue, Sandburg used two pitchers who will be Division I college players to try to upend Providence, Lincoln-Way North was the SouthtownStar’s No. 1-ranked team and Edwardsville had won 32 games.

In other words, not a slouch in the bunch.

“We’ve had to beat some quality teams,” Smith acknowledged. “I believe our schedule, both conference and nonconference, is as good as anyone’s in the state. It’s prepared us for the playoffs.”

Maybe even for a state championship.



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