O’Brien: Providence sets gold standard with three consecutive state titles

It’s now appropriate to refer to Jackson Stulas, Mike Madej, Zack Pych and Jim Jeffries as Providence’s Golden Generation. The four seniors have etched their names into the history books. In the 77-year history of the IHSA state baseball tournament no school had ever won three consecutive championships, until Saturday.

Pych, Stulas, Madej and Jeffries were all inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup at some point during their sophomore years. They were the driving force behind all three state titles.

“Making history like this, nothing can beat it, it’s awesome,” Pych said. “What a way to end your high school career. It doesn’t get any better than this. The best feeling in the world.”

The Celtics 10-3 win over Mundelein in the Class 4A state championship game at Silver Cross Field was a typical example of the squad’s never say die, team-first attitude over the past three years.

Pych tied the game in the fifth inning by leaning into a pitch and getting hit. The bases were loaded so it forced in a run and tied things at 3. Then Jackson Dvorak came to the plate and gave Providence (33-9) the lead for good with a two-run single.

Pych wouldn’t quite own up to his cunning move after the game, but he did acknowledge that plays like that have been the key to Providence’s history-making run.

“Do what you can do to spark the team,” Pych said. “The smallest things spark us and we go on from there.”

Pych was 2 for 3 with a run and and RBI. Madej, a Purdue recruit, was 3 for 4 with two runs and three RBI. Tyler Zarembka pitched three shutout innings in middle relief to earn the win.

It’s the fifth state title for Providence, which also won in 1978, 1982, 2014, 2015.

Mundelein (31-10), led by Arizona State recruit Brendan Murphy, was attempting to break a streak. The Mustangs have never won a state title in a sport that featured an elimination tournament.

CLASS 3A: Lemont senior Garrett Acton was just a normal kid when he woke up on Saturday. By the end of the day he was a state champion and a Major League Baseball draft pick.

The Indians beat Springfield 10-0 to win the Class 3A state title. Acton pitched a complete game shutout, struck out four and walked three.

It was the ninth shutout of the season for Lemont (30-9).

“It says a lot about our defense and our pitching staff,” Acton said. “Both are very, very good. I’ve played with a lot of good players but there isn’t a defense I’d rather have behind me. It says a lot about how good our team is.”

A few hours after the game Acton was drafted in the 35th round by the White Sox.

Lemont’s first baseball state title was in 2014. The Indians were upset in the sectionals last season.

“We felt we had a great chance to get back here,” Acton, a St. Louis recruit, said. “We just put in all the work we could, scrapped and played good baseball.”

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4 comments

  • tim

    somebody is a bit jealous cough cough mundelein

  • Atrain

    It’s the same push back every time. These boys for every team providence puts on the field are from New Lenox or a neighboring town. My public high school, in my area, is fed with students from at least 3 towns I know of. Kudos to this providence team for a great accomplishment.

  • Bitt9

    I believe a 35 mile radius is what the IHSA allows for enrolling in a private school.

  • Keepin' It Real

    Can we list the home towns (and/or approx addresses / intersections) of the players on Providence? I’ve always contended that the IHSA should have a boundary and non-boundary tournament. My guess is Providence should play in the non-boundary tournament. I am sure they are well coached, have great players, and play good baseball. However, my impression is that few if any are from the New Lenox area. If I am wrong, my bad. If I am correct, then separate the classes by boundary or non-boundary, and then enrollment. Teams should play in homogeneous divisions.

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