As the regular season wound down, Dylan Rosa probably was not among the candidates for Player of the Year on the Herald-News All-Area Baseball Team.
But then the magic began. It happened a second time, a third and even a few more as Rosa led Providence to the Class 4A state championship. Big hit after big hit, a streak the likes of which may never be seen again.
All those heroics vaulted Rosa over heavy competition and onto the throne. He is the Herald-News Player of the Year.
“Without Dylan, golf season would have started about three weeks earlier,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “He was consistent all through this season, but his postseason has got to go down as one for the ages. People around here will never forget it.”
To recap, after an up-and-down regular season, Providence opened the regional with a 4-2 victory over Lockport. The Porters, playing on their home field, were leading, 2-1, in the bottom of the fifth inning when Rosa rifled the go-ahead two-run double down the left-field line.
In the regional final against Brother Rice, his solo home run in the top of the ninth produced a 5-4 victory.
In the Andrew Sectional title game against Lincoln-Way North, Rosa’s two-run single broke a tie at 3 and sent the Celtics on to a 9-3 win.
He followed that with a walkoff three-run double as Providence won the supersectional at the University of Illinois, 6-5, over Edwardsville.
Then came the state tournament at Silver Cross Field. Rosa hit what would become a necessary two-run single and was the winning pitcher in an 8-7 semifinal victory over Prairie Ridge. The next night, his sixth-inning solo homer broke a tie at 1, and Providence proceeded to beat St. Rita, 4-1, for the state title.
“Winning state was probably one of the best moments of my life,” Rosa said. “We really were a team of destiny. I’m on Cloud 9.”
“The home run in the state championship game was a lifetime thrill in itself,” Smith said. “But every hit he got in the postseason energized us as a team.”
A Prep Baseball Report first-team all-stater and an IHSBCA Class 4A all-stater, Rosa said delivering so many big hits was not a personal accomplishment as much as a response to the mantra the Celtics took into the postseason.
“That was our thing, to play loose,” he said. “We never put pressure on ourselves. We knew if someone was called on to get the big hit, he would do it. It helped me be calm and stay focused on what I had to do.”
Now preparing for a collegiate career at Kent State, Rosa finished with a .413 batting average. He had 14 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and an area-best 55 RBIs.
He and fellow senior Jake Godfrey shared the pitching chores through the playoffs. Rosa ended the season 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA.
“Coach Smith told Godfrey and me that to win a championship, he and I would have to go deep into games in the playoffs,” he said. “Thankfully, every game he and I either went six or seven innings.”
Rosa, who is playing this summer with the Illinois Sparks, said his pitching career probably is over. Kent State signed him as an everyday player, either a first or third baseman, his two positions away from the mound at Providence.
Smith said he first used the word “special” to describe Rosa when he attended the Celtics’ summer camp as an eighth-grader. “I said to the other coaches, ‘Who is this kid?’ “
Rosa was born here, moved to Florida in fifth grade to be with his dad and moved back a few years later to be with his mom and sister, Maddie, a 2011 Providence graduate.
“After my sister went to Providence, it was a no-brainer for me,” he said.
“At first we thought more of Dylan as a position player,” Smith said. “Freshman year, he got on the mound, and we said he won’t be a bad pitcher, either.
“We brought him up to varsity as sophomore, and the reason was to be a pitcher. We needed depth, and Dylan provided that. But we had two third basemen who weren’t taking the job. We put him out there, and he took the job and ran with it, but he struggled offensively. His junior year he hit something like .309 and struggled at times.”
Last summer, though, he played a travel tournament in Ohio, and everything clicked. Kent State saw him and offered.
“He showcased himself in the summer and kept blossoming from there,” Smith said. “He came back here for the summer regional and we said how he looks better. He looked different at the plate, going up the middle more.
“To see how far he has come as a hitter is unbelievable.”
Rosa credits his hitting coach, Kevin Sullivan, at Elite Sports Performance in Oswego.
“He made me realize I have all this talent,” Rosa said. “He said if I worked on it and focused on it, I can go a long way in this game. He gave me positive reinforcement that carried over into this year.”
Rosa said he would love to play professionally some day, “but I’m not too worried about that. I want to help us win as many games as possible at Kent State.”
There’s that team attitude coming through again.
“We’ve enjoyed watching Dylan grow,” Smith said. “He is such a great kid.”
Rosa has learned to live with a stuttering problem. Other kids made fun of him when he was growing up.
He said handling that might have impacted the way he plays baseball. He does not put pressure on himself, which allows him to be at his best.
Of course, who would have dreamed one kid’s best would mean decisive hits in six of his team’s seven playoff games? Movies are made of lesser feats.