Baseball: Catholic League Blue race will go down to the wireKenny King, of Providence, singles against Brother Rice at Brother Rice, Monday, April 30th, 2012 in Chicago, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 7, 2012 11:48PM
Who will end up on top of one of high school baseball’s best conferences at the end of the week is anyone’s guess.
But know this about the remaining three-game stretch in the Catholic League Blue season: It’s going to be as exciting as a suicide-squeeze bunt and as fun as watching Tony Campana motor from first to third base.
“It’s going down to the wire,”
St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said.
Yes, it is.
That’s what you’d expect when four teams in the SouthtownStar Top 10 are competing for the league championship.
Providence, St. Laurence, Mount Carmel and St. Rita still are in the running for Catholic Blue supremacy. Brother Rice and Loyola may be on the outside looking in, but have the ability to play the role of spoiler.
It’s the type of drama that causes coaches to toss and turn in bed at night, forces fans to the edge of their seat every pitch and requires players to embrace pressure situations and produce in the clutch.
Really, would you have it any other way?
“I love it,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said. “It’s what makes the conference fun and why the games are so exciting.”
Here’s the deal. Providence and St. Laurence are tied for first place at 11-2. Mount Carmel is right behind at 10-3. St. Rita is 9-4.
Brother Rice may be out of the race at 7-6, but with a game remaining against St. Rita and two against St. Laurence, it can have a direct impact on who claims the Blue.
On the flip side, all Providence and St. Laurence need to do is take care of business.
There is no need for either to look over its shoulder — as long as they win.
“Fortunately, we control our own destiny,” Lotus said. “If we play well and get three wins, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”
And the way the Vikings rotation sets up — Nick Altobella on Tuesday at Loyola, Zack Lewis on Wednesday vs. Brother Rice and Kevin Smith on Saturday at Brother Rice — they are in ideal position to run the table.
St. Laurence put itself in position to claim the vaunted Blue by sweeping Providence.
“It was huge for us to win both games against Providence,” Lotus said.“I think most coaches in our conference thought it was going to come down to the last few games,”
St. Laurence, however, can’t underestimate Brother Rice, not with pitching staff led by Garrett O’Neill, Sean McGrath and Kyle Bernaciak. I don’t who’ll go when, but each has the ability to tame the Vikings bats.
Providence, with its 1-2 pitching punch of Zak Kutsulis and David Hearne, is capable of winning out as well — especially if the Celtics lineup, led by Kenny King, Sam Tidaback, Ryan Koziol and Kutsulis, heats up.
Providence’s game Tuesday at Mount Carmel is huge. If the Celtics win, it not only brings them one step closer to the Blue title, it puts Mount Carmel’s title hopes on life support.
Providence would then have two games remaining against Loyola.
Not that those are “gimmes.” Loyola pitcher Dan Rafferty is one of the top arms in the Catholic League.
If Mount Carmel can upend Providence on Tuesday, it’s still in the thick of the race. The Caravan then will need to sweep rival St. Rita on Wednesday and Saturday, something it’s certainly capable of achieving.
Though, St. Rita, with the lefty tandem of Scott Thomas and Mike Costanzo expected to toe the rubber, is just as capable of bringing out the broom on the Caravan.
St. Rita might even have pitcher Eddie De La Riva at its disposal. De La Riva, a Purdue recruit, has been rehabbing his right elbow for two months.
“The league is as strong as ever,” Zunica said. “Every team in the Blue can win on any given day.”
That’s why, with so few games left, the race for the Blue title remains a four-team hunt.