FRANKFORT – A lesser team might simply have buried itself after a disastrous inning.
The Providence Catholic baseball team is not that team.
After Homewood-Flossmoor scored six runs in an inning where everything that could have gone wrong for the Celtics basically did, in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Lincoln-Way East Regional, the Celtics simply picked themselves up and got back to work.
And a little bit at a time, Providence inched back into the game, eventually claiming a 8-7 victory over the Vikings that lifted them to the regional title game, where they will face upstart No. 17 seed Romeoville in a game that is currently scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.
On the surface the game looked like a potential pitcher’s duel, with Providence’s Arizona State-recruit Bryce Barnett and Homewood-Flossmoor’s Illinois-Chicago recruit Tyler Schlaffer locking horns.
That materialized for about an inning. In the Homewood second, the Vikings immediately showed where their team strength lies: speed. The Vikings continually pounded the ball on the infield and let their legs do the rest as they legged out two infield hits and forced a pair of Providence errors. When the dust cleared, H-F had sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs.
“We’ve really been playing great defense, and today was just a day where we struggled a little bit defensively,” Providence coach Mark Smith said.
But Providence had six more at-bats to try to recover from the disaster, and while they left the bases loaded in the second, they sliced into the lead in the third by getting an RBI single from Jake Mucha and a two-run blast off the bat of Ben Vitas that trimmed the lead to 6-3.
Two innings later the potent Providence offense struck again, as a three-run homer from Brendan Geers tied the score at 6. Later in the inning, a mishandled ball on a dropped third strike throw allowed the Celtics to score the go-ahead run at 7-6.
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Isaiah Coupet tied the game in the top half of the sixth with a solo home run. And it looked like the Vikings were poised to tack on more, but relief pitcher Ryan Manikowski got out of a two-on, no-out jam without allowing any more runs to score.
In the bottom of the sixth, Providence strung together hits to set the stage for Geers again, who promptly lashed a single to push across what turned out to be the decisive run.
“The strategy was just to chip away at it,” Geers said. “This is absolutely something that can give us momentum. We’re confident, especially after today.”