JOLIET – About 90 minutes before the start of Tuesday’s renewal of the nonconference baseball rivalry between Providence and Joliet Catholic, the Hilltoppers’ coaches lined up cones with the flag pole in left-center field at Gillespie Field.
There was time for a little batting practice.
“The line of cones was their third-base foul line,” coach Jared Voss said. “They weren’t allowed to hit anything to the left of that.”
On a night when a vicious wind was gusting out toward right field, the idea was to hit the ball in that direction. Right-handed hitter Nick Dalesandro understood.
“Most definitely, I was going that way,” said Dalesandro, who homered down the right-field line in the first inning, doubled to deep right-center in the second and doubled off the top of the fence in deep right-center in the third, driving in four runs as the Hilltoppers prevailed, 12-5.
“That’s Hilltopper baseball, anyway,” Dalesandro said of hitting the other way. “On a normal day, the home run probably doesn’t go out. But when the right fielder stopped after a couple steps, he told me it was out.”
Dalesandro, who played third base Tuesday and made three good defensive plays, sat out the championship game of the WJOL/Don Ladas Memorial Tournament in early April, when Providence scored a wild, 17-12, eight-inning victory over JCA because he was ejected in the semifinal game.
“It’s not the same stage, but this is kind of a little redemption for me,” Dalesandro said.
“I was joking with Nick that he’s going to hate to see us leave town,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “It’s seems like he’s been around for 10 years. A kid with that kind of talent doesn’t come along very often.”
Dalesandro’s blast was followed by KC Simonich’s line drive homer that he pulled down the right-field line. Simonich also had RBI singles in his next two at-bats. Alex Ragusa contributed a single, wind-affected double and three RBIs, and Dan Devine and Mitch Boe each had a single and an RBI.
JCA (13-2), which scored four runs in each of the second and third innings after two were out, led, 11-0, behind winning pitcher Danny Belling, who allowed three hits and a walk in three scoreless innings, before Providence (13-3) erupted for five runs in the fourth against reliever Jared Jones.
Tom Kelley had just doubled in two runs and Jackson Stulas tripled in two more for the Celtics. Mike Quiram entered with nobody out and walked Mike Madej, who had two singles earlier. But Quiram, the usual third baseman and staff closer, stranded the runners at first and third and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced to close it out. He struck out five, and the only runner he allowed reached on an error.
“I liked it,” Quiram said of pitching in the wind. “Maybe it helped me because all my pitches were working. I threw the splitter a lot, and they seemed to be off balance. All I really had to do was throw strikes.”
Quiram said he never has a sore arm. He told Voss afterward he will be available Wednesday afternoon at Nazareth, should Dalesandro – who will make his first start of the season – need relief.
“I really don’t know what all the pitches are that ‘Q’ [Quiram] throws, but everything moves a lot,” Voss said. “Let’s just say he throws breaking pitches.”
“Their first guy [Belling] and their last guy [Quiram] both pitched very well,” Smith said. “It’s not a word, but they offspeeded us to death, and we didn’t adapt to it.
“It was tough to play today, elementwise, but we came out flat, and I was disappointed in that. That’s on me. I didn’t have us ready. You spot a good team like that 11 runs, and your chances of winning are slim.”
Zach Pych had two of Providence’s six hits; and Stulas, the shortstop, provided a highlight when he made a diving stop in the hole and threw out Max Brzostowski at first.