Softball: Providence producing from all points in lineupProvidence Celtics winning pitcher #4 Amanda Wilson vs Geneseo at the IHSA SuperSectionals Championship game held at Seneca and Providence won 4-3 in 8 innings on SaturdayMonday, June 4, 2012. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 6, 2012 7:24PM
Sarah Brightmore, batting ninth.
She had the game-winning hit against Oak Forest.
Jessica Jatis out of the seven spot.
She had the go-ahead hit against Tinley Park.
Maeve Garvey from the two slot and Morgan Greenwood at cleanup.
They absolutely had critical hits against Geneseo.
Up and down the order, Providence has had hitters step up on its postseason journey to the promised land of Illinois high school softball: EastSide Centre in East Peoria and this weekend’s state finals.
“We’re getting some key hits from everybody,” Providence coach Jay Biesterfeld said. “That’s what you’ve got to be able to do. You can’t just have four (or) five kids in the lineup doing it all, and everybody else making routine outs.”
The Celtics (28-12), making the program’s first appearance at state, will play defending Class 3A state champion Marengo (35-5) at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the first Class 3A semifinal.
What does Biesterfeld know about their worthy opponent?
“Well, I know they won state last year,” he said, chuckling. “They have some pretty good pitching (Lindsay Melson). I know they have some speed in their lineup, some slappers. So we’ll have to be prepared for some small ball and making some key plays defensively.
“But you know, I don’t think they’re any different than some of the other teams we’ve seen this year. We know they’re well coached, they don’t make a lot of mistakes. We’re going to have to play defense as well as them, and what it’s really going to come down to, this time of the year, is who is going to come out with that big two-out hit to push a run across.
“We have nine kids we feel capable of getting that big hit.”
The UIC-bound Melson (25-5) has 286 strikeouts in 1752/3 innings. She doesn’t mess around with the bat, either, leading the team with 15 doubles and averaging .310. Among the other Marengo hitters Providence will have to shut down are Reed Karsten (.564, 7 triples, 3 HRs), Stephanie Cartwright (.357) and Abby Kissack (.354).
The Celtics saw their season take a positive turn right after a negative.
On May 14, Marian Catholic mathematically eliminated Providence from East Suburban Catholic Conference contention with a 7-2 victory. Two days later, however, the Celtics did the same to Marist, 6-2, behind a big day by Courtney Pych (double, 2 HRs).
They haven’t lost since, and will carry a nine-game winning streak into the showdown vs. Marengo.
There were no serious lineup tweaks, Biesterfeld said. Just a change in approach.
“We really starting stressing being aggressive, and making sure pitch selection was a key,” he said. “The biggest problem for our offense was just getting quality pitches to hit. If we could get some quality pitches, I believed the kids had the ability to do a little bit better at the plate. And they’ve just done a better job of late making adjustments during games to what the pitcher has been throwing.”
The Celtics haven’t been clearing a lot of fences. Pych and Tara Airola are tied for the team lead with just five homers. But the Celtics have found the fence with drives on many occasions, totaling a whopping 110 doubles. Amanda Wilson is tops with 23, while Greenwood has 19 and Airola and Pych 13 each.
“You know what? I wouldn’t mind a few of those being home runs, but the philosophy of our hitting is to hit the ball hard every time,” Biesterfeld said. “We’re looking for those line drives. Sometimes they don’t carry far enough to go over the fence, but with those two-baggers you can get a lot of run production. We’ve been doing that all year long.”
Wilson and Allie Strick likely will see pitching duties. Strick, a right-hander, has a 17-4 record with one save. Wilson, a lefty, is 11-8 with five saves in six opportunities.
In 17 of 40 games both have pitched, including in Monday’s 4-3 eight-inning supersectional win over Geneseo. Wilson went the final six innings, fanning seven.
“It’s really about feel and what the other team is doing,” Biesterfeld said. “Monday, we decided to go with Allie because she’s been doing well. But the first couple of innings they got a lot of hits off of her. In the third, I just felt like we needed to get Amanda in there to show more of an off-speed pitch. We threw a lot of changeups at them and Amanda did a great job.”
To do the same Friday would go a long way toward dethroning a champ.
“I just want to go there and play well,” Biesterfeld said. “We can’t control the result, all we can control is the way we play. If we go out and play well, play hard, the way we have the last 10 games, I’ll take away whatever result we get.”