Helm fans 17 Cardinals as Crestview advances to districts
Saturday, May 17, 2014 12:40 AM
By John Parent
Crestview senior Damian Helm delivers a pitch during the Knights’ 1-0 win over new Bremen on Friday night in the D-IV sectional final. Helm held the Cardinals to just two hits while striking out 17 in the game. (dhi MEDIA/ Tina Eley)
dhi MEDIA Sports Editor
CONVOY — Crestview captured the Division IV sectional title with a 1-0 win over New Bremen on Thursday night. The Knights managed just four hits against Cardinal right hander Jacob Gilberg, but the Knights got an even better performance from their pitcher.
For most of the season, Crestview senior Damian Helm has simply been trying to build his pitch counts. After a basketball season that ended with a state championship, Helm and fellow seniors Isaiah Simerman and Cam Etzler were behind the program in terms of throwing this spring.
Instead of overworking his ace, Crestview coach Jim Wharton has gradually added to Helm’s pitch counts in each outing, all in an effort to have him ready to go by the time the tournament began. If Thursday night’s performance was any indication, Helm is peaking at the right time.
Helm struck out each of the first six batters of the game on his way to a career-high 17 strikeouts during the two-hit shutout. The win catapults Crestview into the district semi-finals where they will take on Marion Local on Wednesday, May 22 at 7 p.m. That game will be played at Coldwater.
New Bremen had a golden opportunity to draw first blood in the third. After watching his teammates fail to make contact, Sam Wisvari decided to drop a bunt and wound up reaching when Crestview mishandled the play. After a strikeout, Wisvari moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Connor Steinecker then lined a solid single to right, but the Cardinals held their runner at third base with only one out. Nick Gusching’s bunt moved only Steinecker, as Wisvari didn’t break from third, and Helm fanned Gilberg to escape the jam.
The Cardinals wouldn’t threaten again.
While Helm was whiffing seemingly every batter he faced, Gilberg was quietly every bit as effective on the mound. Featuring a plus fastball and outstanding curve, Gilberg held the Knights without a hit until Helm’s line drive to center fell just in front of a sliding Steinecker to open the fourth.
The Knights added to the pressure when Jordan Roop walked to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Cleanup man Nate Owens hit a rocket to left that looked sure to break the scoreless tie, but a diving catch by Gusching kept the Knights off the board, at least temporarily.
The next batter, Simerman, turned on a first-pitch fastball and roped a line drive that landed just inside the left field foul line, bringing Helm in to score and leaving runners at second and third. It was one of two hits on the day for Simerman, who returned to the Crestview lineup after missing time with a back injury.
“It was good to have Simerman back in the lineup. One of the things we talked about was jumping on a first-pitch fastball and he was the only one who did it, and he did it twice,” Wharton noted. “We put him through a battery of tests. There was no way I was going to play him unless I was pretty certain that he was going to be okay. This break (Crestview’s last game was a week ago) has been good for him.”
After Jordan Miller walked to load the bags, Gilberg got tough and struck out Bryce Richardson before getting out of the inning on a Justin Overmyer popup.
“I tip my hat to that New Bremen pitcher, he was good,” Wharton continued. “It’s a shame that either of those kids (Helm and Gilberg) had to lose, because they both pitched well enough to win.”
Crestview would threaten again in the fifth, putting the first two batter of the inning aboard, but Gilberg mowed through the heart of the Knight order with a popup a ground ball and a strikeout to escape further damage.
“We had runners in scoring position and we didn’t execute,” said Wharton. “But, we also haven’t played for a week. It’s been inside practices, but that’s no excuse.”
While the Knights were unable to add an insurance run, Helm made sure they didn’t need it.
He struck out the side in the fourth, working around a two-out single. Helm then fanned two more in the fifth and added one in the sixth to give him 14 for the game. In the seventh, he struck out Travis Bertelsman, Bennett Staton and Trey Naylor in order to polish off the gem.
The 17 strikeout performance ranks one behind the all-time Crestview record, held by Neil Slusher, a 1987 graduate, who accomplished the feat against Fort Jennings, also in a sectional game. Helm didn’t walk a batter on Thursday, and went to a three-ball count only once.
“He was able to command pitches pretty well and throw two or three different pitches for strikes,” Wharton explained. “There are some kids who throw harder than Damo, but that’s not necessarily his forte at this point in his career; his forte is getting people to hit the ball where he wants them to hit it. He doesn’t miss his spots very often.”
New Bremen 000 000 0- 0 2 2
Crestview 000 100 x- 1 4 1
New Bremen (ab-r-h-rbi)
Gusching lf 2-0-0-0, Gilberg p 3-0-0-0, Overman 3b 3-0-0-0, Bertelsman dh 3-0-0-0, Staton 1b 3-0-1-0, Naylor c 3-0-0-0, Wisvari 2-0-0-0, Siegel ss 2-0-0-0, Steinecker cf 2-0-1-0
Etzler cf 3-0-1-0, Helm p 3-1-1-0, Roop 1b 2-0-0-0, Owens c 3-0-0-0, Simerman 3b 3-0-2-1, Miller lf 2-0-0-0, Richardson dh 3-0-0-0, Overmyer rf 3-0-0-0, Rolsten 2b 1-0-0-0
LOB- New Bremen 3, Crestview 7; SAC- Gusching, Rolsten; 2B- Simerman; E- Overman, Gilberg, Simerman
New Bremen pitching
Gilberg (L) 6.0 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 4 K
Helm (W) 7.0 IP 2 H 0 R 0 ER 0 BB 17 K
WP_ Gilberg; PB- Owens