Another one: Providence’s sixth state baseball championship could be the beginning of another run

The Celtics hold the state record for baseball titles, but don’t be surprised if they add to it next season

Providence players react to their 4-1 victory over Conant during the Class 4A state baseball championship game at Duly Health and Care Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024 in Joliet.

JOLIET – Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Tom Brady’s New England Patriots. The Providence Catholic baseball team.

These are a few squads that can brag about winning six titles. We know the first two never earned a seventh.

But don’t assume for a moment that won’t be the case for the third.

Providence beat Conant 4-1 to win the Class 4A state championship Saturday at Duly Health and Care Field. Half the stadium was filled with green as the Celtics broke a three-way tie for most state titles in baseball with Joliet Catholic and Edwardsville.

Both of those teams have won five titles, just as Providence had.

But now, the Celtics are all alone at the top with six.

“It feels amazing,” senior Mitch Voltz said. “It’s always been a dream my whole life. I came to the [Joliet] Slammers’ stadium and watched Providence when they won in [2014, 2015 and 2016]. It’s always been a dream of mine to win it, and there’s not a better feeling in the world than what I’m feeling right now.”

Providence players pose with their championship trophy after their 4-1 victory over Conant during the Class 4A state baseball championship game at Duly Health and Care Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024 in Joliet.

Voltz was of course referring to the three consecutive titles the Celtics won under coach Mark Smith, who added a ring for his pinky finger Saturday. The first two titles came in 1978 and 1982 under coach Jaime Garcia. Voltz, along with the other 10 seniors on this roster, including Jackson Smith and John Greenwood, go out on a high note, adding their names to that list.

“We have one goal every year,” coach Smith said. “Our one goal is to win our last game. Every other thing is great, but our one goal is to win our last game. I said that to them in the seventh inning. There’s one inning left to accomplish the one goal we set out to do and they were able to do that. Those seniors worked their tails off. Losing Mitch and [Jackson Smith] is going to be tough next year. We’re not thinking about that just yet.”

Fair enough.

Smith mentioned that some people pointed out it was the first time in eight years that the Celtics had been back to state. He countered that just getting to this point is extremely difficult. That’s doubly true when you consider that Providence plays up in competition and has one of the most challenging sectionals in the state. Its earned the right to celebrate for a while now.

But make no mistake, the Celtics are in excellent position to make it two in a row and seven overall next year.

The loss of Voltz (.358 BA, 17 RBIs) and Jackson Smith (.435, 45 RBIs), a Bradley commit, will hurt no doubt. Greenwood (26 RBIs, .408), Edward Konow (37 strikeouts) and Ethan Ganz (0.56 ERA) will hurt as well. All 11 seniors will be missed in some capacity. And those that remain are grateful for all that they’ve done.

“Mitch and Jackson being our captains set the tone,” junior Enzo Infelise said. “They always tell us to work hard in practice. If someone is taking a play off in practice, they tell them they’ve got them. I think that’s a big part of [winning a title], having those leaders on one team.”

But again, this group is extremely well positioned for the future. Six of their regular starters are juniors who will return. Nate O’Donnell (.434 BA, 52 RBIs, 11 home runs) is committed to Creighton. Infelise (.347, 31 RBIs, seven HR) is committed to Oklahoma. Nolan Galla was limited much of this season and will play at Xavier.

Cooper Eggert (2.53 ERA, .443 BA, 25 RBIs, five home runs), Eddie Olszta (.379, 27 RBIs), Blake Jenner (17 RBIs, including a walk-off during the playoffs) and Kasten Goebbert (2.65 ERA, 45 strikeouts) are all coming back, too.

To say the Celtics have a good foundation to build is an understatement. Would it be out of the question for the Celtics to go back to back?

“No, it wouldn’t,” Infelise said. “I think we could do it again, honestly. Six of our players out there are juniors and most of them are hitters. We’re getting Cooper, Nate and Kasten back, so yeah, I think we’ve got a good shot at it.”

And what about coach Smith? The one who will be seeking his fifth ring to fill up his right hand? Does he think this could be the beginning of another three-peat? While most people will tell you they’re hungry for another championship, Smith had a different sensation.

“I’m thirsty,” he said with a laugh when asked about the chances of another three-peat. “We’re going to enjoy this for a while, but I’ve got a pretty nice nucleus coming back next year.”