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Providence defeats Conant for record sixth state championship – Shaw Local

JOLIET — There is a new king of the hill in Illinois baseball.

Providence won its state-record sixth title on Saturday, defeating Conant 4-1 in the Class 4A championship game at Duly Health and Care Field.

The win breaks a tie with Edwardsville and Joliet Catholic, which both have five titles.

The Celtics (33-8) took advantage of a pair of Conant errors, got a timely two-out, two-run single from Nate O’Donnell in the fourth inning and a stellar performance on the mound from Kasten Goebbert to clinch the title , their first since 2016.

Goebbert allowed just three hits over six innings, getting help from O’Donnell in the seventh after allowing a solo homer to Conant’s Matt Maize starting in the bottom half of the inning. O’Donnell retired the only three batters he faced to record the save. Goebbert struck out four and walked one, keeping the Cougar hitters off balance throughout the game.

Goebbert, a junior transfer from Lockport, didn’t even know he would be starting in the state championship game until Saturday morning.

“I didn’t find out until this morning when we met for batting practice that I was going to be the starter today,” Goebbert said. ‘I’m actually glad they only told me today. I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep last night.

“I was able to locate my fastball for first-pitch strikes pretty much the entire game. That worked best for me. I was able to locate my pitches well and the defense played great. As big as this park is, with the wind blowing in, I figured I’d just let them hit it and let my defense take it. I have a lot of confidence in our defense that they will make the play.”

Providence starting pitcher Kasten Goebbert, center, is greeted in front of the dugout by teammates after being ejected from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning during the Class 4A state baseball championship game at Duly Health and Care Field on Saturday, June 8.  2024 in Joliet.

Conant (30-8) made a pair of errors early, both of which led to Providence runs. The Celtics left the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, but broke through in the second. Blake Jenner led off with a walk before runner Mike Sanfratello was sacrificed to second by Mitch Voltz. Enzo Infelise (2 for 4) hit a grounder to third base, but the throw went wrong and allowed Sanfratello to score for a 1-0 Providence lead.

After a scoreless third, the Celtics added some insurance runs in the fourth. Jenner started again with a walk, but Sanfratello was eliminated first on a pick-off. One out later, Voltz singled and Infelise followed suit, putting runners on first and second base. A Jackson Smith pop-up was dropped by Conant’s second baseman, allowing Voltz to score, before O’Donnell drove in both Infelise and Smith with a single for a 4-0 lead.

“It feels great to win the title,” O’Donnell said. “That was our goal at the beginning of the year and we achieved it. We didn’t hit great in the playoffs, but we had great pitching and we played great defense.

“I was warming up in the bullpen in the fourth inning, so I didn’t really see much of what happened. When it was almost my turn to bat, I came into the dugout, went to bat and tried to get loose. He hung a curve on the first pitch and I was able to put a good swing on it. It was definitely a moment to live for.”

It was a bit of an up and down season for the Celtics, but it certainly ended on a high note.

“It wasn’t always pretty, but I’m so proud of how these kids competed and battled,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “Our pitching in the postseason was just great. I think the scores against us were 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1 and 1. We didn’t hit great because we saw a lot of great pitching, but our pitching and defense kept us in the game and we got the timely hits when we needed them.

“We wanted our guys to enjoy their last seven innings together, just to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. We had a lot of energy on the bench and I told the kids to be relaxed and loose, play hard and have no regrets.

Providence's Mike Sanfratello celebrates as he scores the game's first run during the top of the second inning against Conant in the Class 4A state baseball championship game at Duly Health and Care Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Joliet.

Smith also had high praise for Goebbert, as well as the multitude of players who came before him.

“We knew him when he came here,” Smith said. “He hadn’t played high school baseball yet this year, but he did play travel games with some of the guys on our team. I just can’t say enough about him. He’s a funny, goofy guy and he’s relaxed and collected. He stood on the mound smiling in the sixth inning.

“There have been many people before us who built this program, starting with Mr. (Tom) Dedin, the program’s first coach. From him to everyone who has played for this program to the parents and alumni who have supported us. We have one goal every year and that is to win our last match. It’s something special to see these kids achieve that, especially the seniors who have worked really hard for four years.”

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