Class 4A State Baseball: Providence handcuffed by Cuff
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 11, 2011 10:24PM
Providence's Dan Potempa tags out Lyons' Keith Heilenbach at home. | Michael DiNovo~For the Sun-Times Media
State Baseball Championships
at Silver Cross Field
Championship: Kaneland 11, Oak Forest 3
Third Place: Waterloo 6, Nazareth 1
Championship: Lyons 8, Providence 3
Third Place: Prospect 2, Mount Carmel 1
Providence 9, Prospect 1
Lyons 4, Mount Carmel 1
Updated: August 11, 2011 12:15AM
JOLIET — After being tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Class 4A state baseball championship, Providence showed all year that the hype was justified.
The Celtics had a lineup no one could stop. Until Saturday’s state championship game.
Lyons starting pitcher Connor Cuff concluded his second straight undefeated season on the mound by limiting the Celtics to three runs, and the Lions prevented Providence from winning its first state title since 1982 with an 8-3 win at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
“I tip my hat to (Cuff),” said Providence senior third baseman Sam Travis, who homered in the first inning for the second straight day. “We were out in front of his curveballs and changeups. He kept us off-balanced and did a really good job.
“Lord knows if you can hold our lineup to three runs, you pitched a hell of a game.”
Cuff, who also drove in four runs, allowed five hits and two walks and struck out six in a complete-game effort.
For Providence (37-4), Travis, in addition to his 17th home run of the season, had an RBI double. Matt Trowbridge, who threw 78 pitches in a complete-game victory over Prospect in Friday’s semifinals, turned in three gutty innings in relief to keep his team in it.
In the end, though, it was a bitter end for a senior class loaded with talent.
“If it was either break an arm or lose state, I’d rather break an arm,” said senior catcher Dan Potempa, who also lost the state title game while at St. Rita in 2009. “This is the worst feeling, to train all offseason and come up short.”
Travis’ solo shot in the top of the first sailed about 400 feet, landing in the patio area down the left-field line.
Providence had early momentum, but it was brief. Lyons (37-4) struck back with three runs in the bottom of the frame as the first three hitters to face Providence ace Brandon Magallones singled and scored.
Lyons added two more on Cuff’s double in the third, chasing Magallones after just 21/3 innings. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits.
After Lyons made it 6-1 in the fourth, Providence made things interesting in the sixth. Kevin DeFilippis (2-for-4) and Joey Houlihan singled to start the inning. Travis’ double scored one and put runners at second and third with no outs, but the Celtics came up with just one more run on Zak Kutsulis’ groundout to make it 6-3.
Cuff escaped with limited damage but not before a scare. Potempa crushed a ball down the left field-line that would have cut the lead to one, but it sailed just foul.
Lyons again had the answer, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to put the game out of reach.
Trowbridge allowed just one earned run in three innings.
“If you’re going to go down, you want to go down with your best,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “He kept us in it, but we just couldn’t get the bats going. (Cuff) baffled us a bit and he was the first pitcher all year to do that.”
Travis, who will continue his career at Indiana, said he will have a hard time letting go of the loss.
“It’s going to take awhile to get over this,” he said. “I’ll never forget this game.”
Smith hopes his players will take away some positive memories.
“This is the first state trophy we’ve gone home with in 29 years,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that because we have a heck of a program, but these kids have a lot to be proud of. They just don’t know it right now.”