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Providence players celebrate after winning the Class 4A state title over St. Rita. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media
It couldn't get much worse for Jake Godfrey than it did on May 3 and it couldn't get much better than it did on Saturday night.
Five weeks after giving up nine runs and four home runs in 1 1/3 innings against St. Rita, the Providence senior was as good as it gets against the team that was No. 1 in Illinois most of the season.
Godfrey took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finished with a two-hitter as Providence completed an improbable run to its first state title in 32 years by beating St. Rita 4-1 in the Class 4A final at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Dylan Rosa, whose three-run, walk-off triple won the supersectional and sent the Celtics to state, put them ahead in this game with the only home run of the weekend — a solo shot just to the left of the scoreboard in the sixth.
Providence (28-14), which was fifth in the six-team Catholic League Blue, got two insurance runs in the seventh, but Godfrey (7-6) didn't need them.
The 6-3, 205-pound LSU recruit was clocked as high as 92 mph on his fastball, but fed the Mustangs a a steady diet of breaking balls in flipping the result of his earlier encounter with them.
"It happens to everyone," Godfrey said of that 14-1 loss. "I haven't given up two home runs in a game, let alone four, and I knew it was a fluke thing. ...
"That game, there (were) a lot of big guys there to watch me play. For them to touch me up, it hurt a little bit."
"Early in the year, that poor kid — he was thinking about the draft, he was throwing to the (radar) gun every day," St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said. "Velocity, velocity, velocity. Today you see why LSU likes him. He pitched today."
Godfrey had to be on top of his game, because St. Rita righty Jake Shepski (7-2) was on top of his.
Shepski gave up a run in the top of the first on three straight singles with two out, including Cam Galgano's RBI hit. That was it till Rosa drove a hit a first-pitch curveball for his 11th home run of the season with one out in the sixth.
"I was looking for a fastball but ... he kind of hung it and I got a bat on it," said Rosa, who figured it was a gapper at best. "When I heard the fans go nuts, I (thought), 'I hit a home run!'"
The Celtics added a couple more runs with the help of two St. Rita errors in the seventh and Godfrey set the Mustangs down in order in the bottom of the inning to clinch Providence's third state title.
"They hunt first-pitch fastballs and we knew that going in, especially from my first start against them," Godfrey said. "So we came out with a little bit different approach."
It added up to a title perhaps not many saw coming.
"When we were here in 2011, I think we really expected to win," Providence coach Mark Smith said of a team that was led by 2014 draft picks Sam Travis and Matt Trowbridge. "That team was as good as Providence has ever had. Losing that game, it took a lot of years to get over and you don't know if you're ever going to get back."
"(In) 2011, those guys were bar none the best team we've seen in a Providence uniform," Godfrey said.
But this one was good enough to do what no Celtics team had done since the '80s.