Providence High baseball makes noise in notching opening playoff win

Just qualifying for the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs was an accomplishment for the Providence High baseball team after missing out on the postseason for 12 straight years.

But the Pioneers weren't happy to just be in the postseason; they had higher aspirations.

Behind a steady pitching performance and bolstered by its ability to jump out to an early lead, Providence knocked off Hesperia Christian, 9-3, on the road to win Thursday's first-round game.

"We knew it had been 13 years since we had made the playoffs as a program, but we don't even know the last time that the program won a playoff game," Providence Coach Steve Knez said. "These kids were probably not even born the last time that happened. We all know the significance of the win."

Providence (8-11) was able to qualify for the playoffs after tying for third place in the Liberty League and winning a coin flip. The Pioneers knocked off a Hesperia Christian (12-2) squad that went 12-0 to capture the Agape League championship.

"Believe it or not, I had a good feeling about the possibility of us winning this game," Knez said. "We looked up the stats on this team and they went undefeated in league and they beat a lot of teams by the 10-run mercy rule and it looked like they really had a stacked lineup.

"But when you look at those statistics, you could see that team hadn't been in a close game all year. I told the guys that if we could keep the score close and score some runs on them that we would have a good chance. I just had a feeling they wouldn't know how to respond to that because they had never been in that position all year."

The Pioneers adhered to that game plan to the letter, jumping out to a three-run lead after the first inning. Providence added to its lead and enjoyed a 9-1 advantage after six innings.

"We knew if we had to battle in a close game we would be ready," Knez said. "We have been in our share of close games this year and some extra-inning games, so we were battle tested. But it never came down to that. Our defense played well and our offense came through."

Sean Holt pitched a complete game for the Pioneers, striking out two and not walking a batter.

At the plate, Holt also came through, going two for three with a double and three runs batted in. Teammate Dante Cano was two for four with a double.

The win puts the Pioneers into a second-round home game in which it will face Pasadena Poly on Tuesday. The game is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. at Foy Park. The Panthers (17-5) are the No. 2 seed and won the Prep League championship this season.

Pasadena Poly defeated Fillmore, 3-1, in its first-round game Thursday.

"We know they have a good program that has been winning for a long time," Knez said. "But we are going to see what kind of game plan we can come up with for that game."


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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