TINLEY PARK – Carl Sandburg’s baseball team battled back from a 4-0 deficit Thursday against Providence Catholic, and when the ball came off Peter Paxinos’ bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, it seemed as if the Eagles were going to take the late lead.
Phil Kunsa wasn’t going to let that happen.
The Celtics’ senior right fielder made a terrific diving catch to rob Paxinos of what would have been a go-ahead two-run hit and end the sixth inning with the lead intact.
Providence ace Jake Godfrey finished it off from there as the Celtics earned a 5-3 win in Thursday’s Class 4A Andrew Sectional semifinal.
“I knew 100 percent that I had it,” Kunsa said. “I knew I had to make a play. Our center fielder, Ben Salvador, makes diving catches like that all the time. I just picked up the mojo from him.”
The sixth-seeded Celtics (24-14) will take on No. 1 seed Lincoln-Way North in the sectional final at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Kunsa’s catch came after Sandburg (24-9) had scored twice off Godfrey in the sixth to pull to within 4-3 and had runners at second and third with two outs.
“As soon as I saw him hit it, I was like ‘Oh boy,’ ” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “What a catch. I gave [Kunsa] a big hug and I told him he saved our season.”
After getting the help he needed, Godfrey took matters into his own hands to get some insurance in the seventh. After Cam Galgano (3 for 4) tripled off the right-field wall with two outs, Godfrey (2 for 4) followed with an RBI triple of his own.
Godfrey then struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.
“We were a hit away from taking the lead and then their guy makes a great catch and they come up with two triples in the seventh,” Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo said. “They made the big plays. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Godfrey, a senior who’s committed to Louisiana State, went the distance, allowing three runs – just one earned – on four hits and two walks while striking out seven.
The Celtics gave him some breathing room in the third, taking full advantage of a key error. Providence pushed across four unearned runs on four straight two-out hits.
Kunsa produced an RBI single and Galgano a two-run base hit.
“Coach Smith always tells us that we have to get hits and take advantage when a team makes an error,” Galgano said. “We did that. We know when we give Jake any sort of support, good things happen.”
Godfrey’s RBI double made it 4-0.
“We knew coming in that runs were going to be at a premium,” Smith said. “We came up with some big hits. Kunsa’s hit broke the ice and Cam’s was huge, giving us that three-run cushion.”
The Celtics have put a late-April/early-May skid that saw their record go from 15-5 to 16-12 long behind them.
“We knew we were capable of being a good team,” Smith said. “It’s all about the postseason.”