CHAMPAIGN – If you didn’t believe it before, you better now.
As long as senior Dylan Rosa has an at-bat remaining, you can’t count out Providence.
Rosa, who has delivered a barrage of huge hits in the postseason, cracked a three-run double into the left-center field gap with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday to give the Celtics a wild, 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Edwardsville in the Class 4A Champaign Supersectional at the University of Illinois.
The game that began so badly for Providence could not have finished better, or more emotionally. The Celtics (26-14) will meet Prairie Ridge (24-16) at 3 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Silver Cross Field.
“By far, that’s the biggest hit of my career,” said Rosa, who previously in the postseason cracked a go-ahead two-run double in a 4-2 win over Lockport, a solo homer in the ninth inning to beat Brother Rice, 5-4, and a two-run single that put the Celtics ahead 5-3 en route to a 9-3 win over Lincoln-Way North.
“Rosa is our guy,” said winning pitcher Jake Godfrey, who went a full seven innings in relief after throwing a complete game last Thursday in a 5-3 win over Sandburg. “He’s clutch whether it’s pitching or hitting.”
In fact, Rosa will get the ball Friday, with Godfrey set to go in Saturday’s championship game, should the Celtics get there.
The first three batters for Edwardsville (32-8) hit the ball hard off Providence starter Brent Villasenor, and then the Celtics’ defense sprung a leak, committing two errors. Before the nightmarish start was over, Providence was down, 3-0. It would have been worse had Godfrey not started a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
“We thought we could go maybe three innings with Brent and then bring in Jake,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “Jake threw a lot of pitches last Thursday. But the way this started, we had to go to Jake. We couldn’t leave a bullet in the gun.”
The Celtics got a run back when Godfrey singled home Mike Madej, who also had singled, in the second. But when left fielder Cam Galgano’s misplay in left field allowed a run to score and make it 4-1 in the fifth, the hole was getting deeper. That was one of five Celtics errors.
However, Galgano atoned and then some. After the first two hitters were retired in the bottom of the sixth, Phil Kunsa singled and Madej walked. Galgano blasted a fastball on a 3-2 pitch to deep right field for a two-run double to make it 4-3.
“I think that was the first fastball I got all game,” Galgano said. “I knew I had to make up for that bad error.”
Edwardsville added an insurance run in the seventh, with the help of an error. Ben Salvador made a diving catch in center field on a sacrifice fly or it could have been worse.
The bottom of the seventh opened with two pinch-hitters coming through for the Celtics as Justin Hunniford walked and Niko Kutsulis singled.
Up came Salvador, the leadoff man. In one of the key strategic moves of the day, Smith had Salvador bunt even after there were two strikes in the count. He came through, dropping down a sacrifice to move the runners into scoring position.
“He’s our bunter,” Smith said of Salvador. “I trusted him to do it.”
Zach Pych then walked to load the bases, and the only question was how many times Rosa could deliver in one postseason.
“I was warming up in the bullpen to start that inning,” said Rosa, who worked six-plus innings Saturday against Lincoln-Way North but would be needed in the event the Celtics tied it in the seventh. “When the first two guys got on for us, I said, ‘I’m going to get a chance to bat now.’ The whole time I had it in my head that I was going to get a hit.
“I said a prayer to myself and said to get up there and don’t try to do too much. I was trying to hit it through the middle.”
“In my mind, I just kept saying, ‘Give Dylan a chance,’ ” Smith said of the surreal seventh inning. “When I saw the ball skip off the turf and our guys running around the bases ...”
Smith can be excused for not being able to finish his thought.
“I don’t know what to say,” he grinned.
How about, see you at Silver Cross Field?