NEW LENOX – Hits have been at a premium for the Providence baseball team thus far this season.
And while that trend continued again Saturday as the Celtics hosted Minooka in a nonconference matchup, Providence proved it could do a lot with a little in collecting a 6-1 victory.
The Celtics had five hits, to give them only 10 on the season through three games, but sometimes it’s about when those hits arrive rather than the accumulation of them.
“Timely hitting. We strung a couple of them together after a couple of walks,” Providence coach Mark Smith said. “And that kind of opened up the door for us and we were able to have a little bit of cushion.”
Neither team had a hit in the contest until the bottom half of the second inning and Brendan Slota made sure it was an impactful one as he swatted an offering just over the left-field fence to give Providence a 1-0 lead.
“I went up there and I was hunting fastball,” Slota said. “Got one right down the middle and was able to put it out. For us, having the aggressive mindset, hunting pitches early in the count if they are there, that’s the key to our success.”
The Celtics caught another break later in the inning as a fly ball was lost in flight by an outfielder and dropped in for a double for Ryan Maloney, which plated Brennan Geers, who walked earlier in the inning.
That 2-0 advantage was clearly going to be enough for a Providence pitching staff that was sharp from the outset. Ryan Manikowski worked the first three innings and didn’t allow a hit while he walked two and plunked another. None of those runners advanced past second base.
He was followed by Dan Dombrowski, who tossed two innings of solid work, surrendering Minooka’s first hit of the game to Jake Allegeyer in the fifth inning. He would finish his stint with three strikeouts.
Ben Vitas would finish things up, working the last two frames. He gave up Minooka’s lone run in the seventh, of the unearned variety, looking solid during his time at work, as well.
And you can likely get used to a heavy rotation of Celtic throwers this season, Smith said.
“They all did very well. They are all on pitch counts, but we’re actually going to take this approach most of the year,” Smith said. “I really like our pitching depth and I want these guys to throw. I want them to get experience. That’s kind of our plan going in to use three or four guys per game.”
Providence (2-1) added some unnecessary insurance runs in its half of the sixth inning. The Celtics reached on an error, got a single from Brennan Geers and a walk from Maloney before a balk brought home one run, and Luke Pell cleared the bases with a double. Providence held a healthy 6-0 lead at that point.
It was a frustrating game all around for Minooka (0-3-1), who finished with only two hits as Kyle Czarnecki would provide a sixth-inning single. The Indians’ lone run was scored on a sacrifice fly by Colin Olkiewicz in the seventh.
Minooka starting pitcher Scott Harper certainly deserved a better fate. Harper threw well and could really be held responsible for only the solo home run he surrendered to Slota. Other than that, his defense let him down in pivotal moments, extending innings in the process.
“In high school baseball, defense and pitching wins and we just played really poor defense today,” Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said. “We just didn’t make routine plays today, we didn’t catch the balls we need to catch. We’re a young team that needs to learn from these experiences; we’re going to figure it out.”