Baranek: Third place game has meaning for Providence
Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5947 June 8, 2012 9:24PM
Amanda Wilson, of Providence, doubles in a run against Marengo. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 11, 2012 10:21AM
EAST PEORIA — Whoever said the third-place game at state is a waste of time (Hmmm, I think I’ve actually said it now and again) couldn’t be more wrong this weekend.
Providence on Saturday badly needed another chance to be on the field, another chance at victory, another chance to make a final good memory in a season that has been as memorable as any in Celtics softball history.
Anything to blur the visions, the sting, the disappointment of what happened at EastSide Centre on Friday.
A 2-0 victory over Mattoon did the trick.
All of the frowns from Friday were turned upside down as the Providence, which had never won more than a regional before 2012, celebrated with their families a third-place finish.
“It feels really good right now,” said a bright-eyed Sarah Brightmore, whose RBI double in the third inning was the game-winner for the Celtics. “We’ve worked really hard, and third place is really an amazing achievement. We’re all just really proud of ourselves.”
Oh yeah, the third-place game was definitely worth it.
Friday’s 2-1 loss to defending state champion Marengo in the Class 3A semifinals was the ultimate bad day at the office for the Celtics.
They had a runner thrown out at the plate and two others left on base in the first. They scored in the third, but two others were stranded.
In the fifth they loaded the bases. Nothing. In the sixth they had runners at second and third with two outs. Nothing. In the seventh, they had one on with two outs. Nothing. Another bases-loaded opportunity in the eighth.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Not that nobody tried to hit the ball. Of Lindsay Melson’s 11 strikeouts, only three were called.
If the Celtics hitters were guilty of anything, it was wanting it too badly.
“I think we had some bad pitch selection,” said Amanda Wilson, who drove in the Celtics’ only run with a double. “She threw hard, but it was nothing that we haven’t seen.
“If you get behind in the count and start chasing, that’s when you get in trouble.”
It was the unluckiest 13 left on base ever for a bunch of kids who seemingly had a magic touch throughout the state playoffs.
Then there was that straight out of Hades bottom of the eighth.
Marengo’s Reed Karsten reached on a high chop on the first-base side that danced and weaved and lured three Celtics into thinking it would go foul, only to stop dead just inside the line.
One out later, Karsten was on third when Providence caught a break. Marengo’s Stephanie Cartwright bunted through the ball on a suicide-squeeze try. Karsten was hung out to dry between third and home and tried frantically to go back. The throw from catcher Ellie Bartosz beat her by plenty.
But nobody was there to catch it.
Not that nobody tried. Courtney Pych had come over from shortstop and made a valiant dive. Nothing. Left fielder Tara Airola twisted herself into a pretzel trying to knock the rapidly speeding ball down. Nothing.
When they needed a hit. When they needed a break. When they needed a play. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
“Just so disappointing for these kids,” Providence coach Jay Biesterfeld said. “They’ve worked so hard. We’ve won a lot of games like this to get here. It really stinks being on the other side of it, let me tell you.”
But they had a chance to go home with a good feeling.
Playing Mattoon gave Brightmore a chance to do an encore of her game-winning hit against Oak Forest.
And Jessica Jatis had a chance to repeat her heroic go-ahead hit against Tinley Park. She did even better, scoring one run and driving in another.
Wilson had a chance to walk out of the pitching circle with a victory. And she was brilliant, firing a two-hit shutout, striking out eight.
All of the Celtics had chance to make a memory that’s more like Providence softball 2012. And they made good on it.
“It’s been a great year for these kids,” Biesterfeld said. “I’m so proud of my team. These girls are great. They just keep battling, and they really believed in themselves and each other.
“For a school that had never even see a sectional championship in softball to get down here and have a shot at it all was awesome.”