When Providence’s Dylan Rosa strolled to the plate in the sixth inning of a tie game Saturday against St. Rita, was there any doubt the young man who has played the role of Superman would not rise to the occasion?
Sure, it was on the biggest stage possible — the Class 4A state championship — and yes, the dimensions of Silver Cross Field are grander than most high school fields.
None of that mattered to the kid from Homer Glen.
One ferocious swing of the bat by Rosa broke the 1-1 tie and brought the Providence faithful to its feet, causing the stands to shake with rock-concert excitement.
Providence tacked on two more runs and accomplished what many thought was impossible: defeat a St. Rita team that handed the Celtics their lunch, dinner and late-night snack by scores of 8-1, 14-1 and 10-4 during the regular season.
“Just incredible,” said Providence coach Mark Smith of his team’s 4-1 win. “Dylan stepped up again. The whole team stepped up. I couldn’t be prouder.”
The odds of Providence winning were even greater considering it was playing without cleanup hitter Phil Kunsa, who was forced to sit out the biggest game of the season after being ejected on Friday.
The Celtics were a team of destiny.
“I was looking for a fastball and he [St. Rita pitcher Jake Shepski] kind of hung a curveball,” said Rosa, who will attend Kent State in the fall. “I thought it was in the gap. When I heard the fans go nuts, I knew I hit a homer.”
Not just a homer. A missile that soared barely more than 25-feet above ground level before landing over the left field wall. The drive gave the Celtics a 2-1 lead and with the way Jake Godfrey was pitching, it may has well been 10-1.
The senior right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before settling for a two-hitter with six strikeouts. The performance was even more amazing when you consider what St. Rita did to Godfrey when the two squared off in May.
The LSU recruit failed to get out of the second inning, surrendering nine runs, including four homers, in just 1 1/3 innings during a 14-1 loss. Given a chance at redemption, Godfrey delivered arguably his best performance of the season. Though, he’s been nothing short of brilliant during the playoffs, winning four games and saving another.
“It [bad game] happens to everyone,” said Godfrey, who was selected by the Braves in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball draft.
“I haven’t ever given up two homers in a game. It hurt a little bit. Definitely, it fueled me for today.”
If it was fuel, it obviously was rocket fuel. Godfrey was hitting 92 mph in the seventh inning, though his bread and butter was his breaking stuff.
“All of us knew what Jake was capable of,” Rosa said. “He was amazing.”
For the third time in six seasons, St. Rita has to settle for second-place. It was a difficult loss for coach Mike Zunica, who showed no emotion while watching Providence celebrate.
The Mustangs won their first 26 games of the season, garnered a share of the Catholic Blue title and, with their regular season success against the Celtics along with the absence of Kunsa, appeared in position to nail down their first state title.
St. Rita’s offense, however, has mostly been M.I.A. during the playoffs, recording just nine runs in the past five games.
“It’s a cruel sport,” Zunica said. “Their guy [Rosa] came up with a big hit and I think he [Godfrey] pitched his best game of the year.”
Asked how long it will take him to get over this loss, Zunica replied, “I don’t know, man. Not forever.”