Ever since the state baseball tournaments moved to Silver Cross Field several years ago, our dream has been to have multiple area teams qualify.
This has become one of those special seasons. Providence will shoot for the Class 4A championship and Lemont will pursue the 3A title.
The two teams reached state in different ways, but all that matters is they are here.
Lemont (33-5) has been outstanding all season, led by the battery of Jake Latz and Mike Papierski, both committed to Louisiana State and drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th and 16th rounds, respectively.
The hurdle the Indians had to clear was the Joliet Catholic Regional, where the Hilltoppers and Lincoln-Way West also were entered. The consensus during the season was all three were top-five teams in 3A.
Lemont drew the No. 1 seed, and rightfully so. That meant the Indians played the Lincoln-Way West vs. JCA winner for the regional title. It turned out to be the Warriors, whom Latz and the Indians beat, 6-2.
We said all along it would be a shame if that regional winner did not play this weekend at Silver Cross Field. Lemont has held up its end of the bargain and now ranks as one of the favorites, although declaring any team a favorite in baseball is risky business.
Lemont meets Metamora (26-12) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday, with Sacred Heart-Griffin (37-3) and Grayslake Central (29-10) in the other semifinal.
Metamora lost its big-time pitcher, Trent Johnson, to injury during a 1-0 loss to JCA early in the season. The Redbirds struggled at times but have put it together in the postseason, including wins of 7-0 over East Peoria, and 3-0 over Washington in another loaded regional.
Alex Lewis (7-1, 1.31 ERA), who tossed a no-hitter against Washington, probably will get the call in the semifinal. Lemont figures to have Charlie Wright (7-1, 0.77 ERA) on the mound, with Latz (9-0, 0.25 ERA, two earned runs, nine walks, 103 strikeouts) ready for the title game if the Indians get there.
Papierski, Jake Terrazas and Houston-bound Mike Wisz all boast gaudy offensive numbers and form the heart of the Indians’ lineup.
The crystal ball says a Lemont vs. Sacred-Heart Griffin final is in the offing. But this is baseball, where anything can happen and usually does.
Unlike Lemont, Providence (26-14) rode a roller coaster during the season but has righted the ship at the perfect time. The Celtics, who meet Prairie Ridge (24-16) at 3 p.m. Friday, have beaten quality opponents throughout the postseason, and senior Dylan Rosa has been nothing short of movie material.
In four of Providence’s five postseason games, Rosa has delivered the winning hit. Most recently, it was the walkoff three-run double that beat Edwardsville, 6-5, in the supersectional at the University of Illinois.
Rosa (3-2, 2.60 ERA) also has excelled on the mound and will be handed the ball against Prairie Ridge, with ace Jake Godfrey (6-6, 3.02) in line for Saturday’s championship game.
Rosa is hitting .403 with 14 doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 52 RBIs. Phil Kunsa is at .359 with 12 doubles, a triple, 11 homers and 46 RBIs. They form the heart of the Providence lineup, along with leadoff man Ben Salvador, who is hitting .382.
Rosa will face a team in Prairie Ridge that has not put up big offensive numbers but has received very good pitching.
Should Providence reach the title game, the opponent will be St. Rita (36-4) or South Elgin (24-10-1). St. Rita has been among the state’s best all season and certainly is a favorite to win two more.
However, South Elgin has a pitcher in Ryan Nutof (8-0, 0.39 ERA), who is committed to Michigan and could be a concern for the Mustangs. He allowed six run in 5 2⁄3 innings in the supersectional against Evanston, but only two were earned. Before that, he allowed two earned runs all season.
Providence has suffered three one-sided losses to St. Rita this season. But I have a feeling the fourth time will be different, should it occur.
Two of own pursuing state titles right here at Silver Cross Field.