Three years ago, Providence scored nine runs against Edwardsville in the first inning and breezed to victory in the Class 4A supersectional at the University of Illinois.
When Edwardsville’s first six batters reached base in Monday’s supersectional between the same schools on the same diamond, déjà vu in reverse was in the offing.
“The way the game started, I told the coaches maybe they’re going to put a 9-spot up on us,” Providence coach Mark Smith said.
But after five batters, Smith summoned senior right-hander Jake Godfrey to relieve starter Brent Villasenor. A couple of hours later, Smith said, “I think I owe Jake a steak dinner or something.”
The swing of emotions in a high school baseball game can be dizzying. Things that absolutely cannot happen do happen, anyway.
This Edwardsville team was for real. Right-hander Daniel Lloyd entered the game with an ERA of 0.43. He is a master at changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance.
The Celtics, on the other hand, not only experienced a nightmarish start, but some of it was of their own making. They made two errors in the first inning, five in all, and were fortunate not to fall behind by more than 3-0 in the top of the first.
Cam Galgano delivered a two-run double in the sixth inning and Dylan Rosa capped Providence’s 6-5 victory with a three-run walkoff double in the seventh.
The Celtics did not play well, they trailed a solid opponent all day and yet they lived to play in the 4A state tournament this weekend at Silver Cross Field, proving again that Yogi Berra was right – It ain’t over till it’s over.
“To be honest, when we came we were too tense,” Galgano said. “For the most part, before this game, we had been making plays and playing looser than we were early in the year.”
“I talked to the boys around the fourth or fifth inning,” Smith said. “I kicked them in the butt. I told them to relax.
“Cam’s double got us back in the game. I’m proud of the way we battled back.”
Godfrey, who was selected by Atlanta Braves on Saturday in the 21st round of the major league free-agent draft, wound up pitching a complete game – in relief. Yes, he went seven full innings, allowing two hits and two unearned runs. He did it without trying to blow hitters away.
“[Villasenor] did his best. He tried,” Godfrey said “I went as far as I could. I took off some [velocity]. I definitely was coming out if we went extra innings.”
Godfrey had tossed a completed game Thursday to beat Sandburg and threw a significant number of pitches in the process. So, the plan was to use Villasenor for three or four innings and then go to Godfrey. But the way it played out, Smith could not afford to let Edwardsville get too far ahead.
Godfrey has not had the type of season expected from one of the top-rated preseason prospects in the Midwest. He said his decision about where he will be next season is made.
“I’m going to LSU,” he said. “Whether I signed [a professional contract] depended on where I got drafted. I’m happy with going to LSU.”
And, he’s happy to be in line to pitch the 4A state championship game. Rosa, who has been huge for the Celtics (26-14) at the plate and on the mound throughout the playoffs, will start at 3 p.m. Friday against Prairie Ridge (24-16). It’s not often two 4A semifinal foes have 30 combined losses.
However, if you believe you know how any given baseball game will play out, you haven’t been paying attention. Still, many followers of Illinois high school baseball feel a Providence vs. St. Rita all-Catholic League title game Saturday night might happen.
Imagine Godfrey’s emotions when he takes the mound, should that game occur.
After Galgano’s two-run double had gotten the Celtics within 4-3 of Edwardsville, Smith talked with his right-hander.
“Jake said, ‘Don’t take the ball away from me. You’re not taking me out,’ ” Smith said.
How would you like your steak, Jake?