Tough test awaits Providence
Updated: June 8, 2011 6:46PM
Preseason top-ranked Providence is the favorite to win the Class 4A baseball title this weekend, which would be the Celtics’ first state championship since 1982.
But No. 1 Providence doesn’t have an easy route at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, with No. 2 Lyons and possibly No. 6 Catholic League Blue rival Mount Carmel in its path.
“I think we’re playing well for the most part,” Celtics coach Mark Smith said. They’re a very confident group. ... If they play loose and stay relaxed, we have as good of a shot as anybody.”
So does Lyons, seeking its first title since 2003. “Coming in, we thought we’d be a contender,” Lions coach George Ushela said. “I thought as long as we didn’t beat ourselves, we’d be good. Last year, I thought we were more a pretender.”
A look at the Class 4A state semifinals:
No. 1 Providence (36-3) vs. Prospect, 3 p.m.
With 15 college commitments on their roster, the Celtics have an abundance of talent. Indiana-bound third baseman Sam Travis (.505 batting average, 15 homers, 72 RBI) anchors an infield that features a Division I player at every position. Central Michigan left-hander Matt Trowbridge (8-0) and Northwestern-bound Brandon Magallones (8-2) are a dominant 1-2 punch on the mound. Prospect, on the other hand, has shocked many with its first state appearance. Junior Jack Landwehr (13-2, 106 Ks; .453 batting average, 43 RBI) is the catalyst behind the Knights’ unprecedented run.
No. 2 Lyons (35-4) vs. No. 6 Mount Carmel (34-7-1), 5 p.m.
This is Friday’s best matchup. Illinois-bound right-hander John Kravetz (11-3) has allowed only two runs in his last three starts, which included a no-hitter for Mount Carmel. Ditto for Lyons right-hander Connor Cuff (10-0), a Penn recruit who also has a no-hitter on his playoff resume, and has yielded only one run in his last three starts. Cuff will have to contend with a Caravan offense led by Indiana-bound Chris Sujka (12 homers), junior first baseman Sam Kint (12 homers) and Kentucky recruit Jeff Boehm (six homers). Lyons counters with a balanced attack, spearheaded by Valparaiso-bound shortstop Spencer Mahoney (21 doubles) and Illinois State-bound first baseman Brian Rodemoyer (10 homers).
A look at the Class 3A state semifinals:
Oak Forest (26-7-1) vs. No. 10 Nazareth (34-5), 10 a.m.
After winning the IHSBCA summer state championship, Nazareth was tagged as the preseason Class 3A favorite. That still may be the case, except perhaps, when Oak Forest junior right-hander Kyle Funkhouser is on the mound, which he will be on Friday. Funkhouser (11-0, 0.83 ERA, 130 Ks) has arguably been the tate’s most dominant pitcher. Oak Forest also features the state’s all-time home run and RBI leader, Kansas State-bound outfielder Tim Barry (12 homers). Nazareth, making the school’s first state appearance, has eight college-bound players, led by right-hander Ryan Powers (Miami Ohio), shortstop Michael Barajas (Lewis) and third baseman Anthony Baldassano (Lewis).
Kaneland (24-10) vs. Waterloo (31-3), 12 p.m.
Led by two-way talent Bobby Thorson (eight homers, 48 RBI; 6-2 record), Kaneland is making its first state appearance. The Knights should have their hands full with Waterloo, which defeated two-time defending 3A champion Glenwood, 1-0, in the supersectional. The Bullodgs are paced by outfielder Garrett Schlecht, who was selected in the ninth round of the MLB draft.