Helena goes 3-3 at Hoover tournament

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HOOVER – The Helena Huskies have been trying to find their mojo during the first half of the 2019 baseball season after losing several key players from the back-to-back state championship appearance teams, and following a 3-3 mark at the difficult Hoover spring break tournament March 27-30, the Huskies seem to be on the verge.

After losing its opening two games of the tournament by a combined 11-1 to Rossview (TN) and Houston (TN), Helena bounced back with three consecutive wins over Marbury, Brooks and Arlington to earn a trip to the semifinals of the tournament where a 14-6 loss to Hoover ended the tournament.

The Huskies, however, showed plenty of positive signs during the week, and at 13-13 overall and 1-1 in area play heading into the final stretch of the season, all of their goals are still right in front of them. A recap from each spring break tournament game is below.

Game 1: Helena 1, Rossview (TN) 5

Helena struggled to get its bats going in the opener of the tournament, only picking up three hits, while Rossview took advantage by posting three runs in the top of the sixth to pull away for a 5-1 victory.

The Huskies kept the game close for the most part allowing just one run apiece in the third and fifth innings, but they failed to score until posting one run in the bottom of the seventh, which was too-little-too late.

Helena’s pitching was solid throughout as Seth Gregory allowed just three hits and two runs while striking out two. In relief, McCall Caruso pitched two innings and allowed just two hits and three runs while striking out two.

At the plate, Luke Stamba, Will Griffith and McGwire Turner picked up the only three hits, while Nick Thompson had the only RBI.

Game 2: Helena 1, Houston (TN) 6

A three-run first inning and four combined runs through the first two innings became too much for the Huskies to overcome in their second game of the tournament.

Yet again, Helena struggled at the plate and only picked up two hits in the game. That allowed Houston to play comfortably with the lead throughout the first five innings, before adding a fifth and sixth run in the sixth and seventh innings.

Helena’s only run came in the bottom of the sixth, but the threat was minimal as Houston closed out the game.

Kellen Watkins pitched 5 1/3 innings on the mound and allowed five hits and five runs while walking four and striking out two. In just more than an inning, Hayes Brown struck out two and allowed no hits in relief.

At the plate, Stamba and John Stephen Heacock had the only two hits and Brody Moss the only RBI.

Game 3: Helena 1, Marbury 0 

For the third game in a row to start the tournament, Helena picked up less than four hits, but this time around, the Huskies needed just three hits and one run in the first inning to take down Marbury 1-0 for their first win of the week.

Helena’s lone run came on an RBI single from Tyler Jon Santos in the top of the first, and that’s all it took with a strong pitching effort.

On the mound, Griffith pitched the first four innings and allowed just two hits while striking out four. In relief, Brown pitched the final three innings and allowed no hits while striking out one.

Santos led the team at the plate with his hit and RBI, while Heacock and Turner picked up the other two hits. 

Game 4: Helena 4, Brooks 1

Finally, in the fourth game of the tournament, Helena’s bats woke up picking up more than five hits in a 4-1 victory against Brooks to string together a second win in a row.

The Huskies busted open a scoreless game in the top of the second with three runs and never looked back. They tacked on one more in the fourth for a 4-0 advantage, and gave up just one run in the bottom of the final inning to pull off the victory.

Landon Leake led Helena at the plate with a 3-for-3 game featuring one RBI, one run scored and one walk. Heacock also had a solid game going 2-for-3 with one RBI, one run scored and one walk as well. JC Wilburn added a hit and RBI to his stat line as well.

Jack Freeman got the complete-game win on the mound after striking out seven and allowing just four hits and one run.

Game 5: Helena 11, Arlington (TN) 4

The 11-4 final didn’t represent the competitiveness of this game, but a seven-run final inning by the Huskies broke a 4-4 tie and led to the victory.

Helena took a 2-0 lead in the second and led 4-1 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning, but Arlington was able to post a three-run inning in the bottom of the sixth to shock Helena and tie the game.

The Huskies, however, used that to fuel their best inning of the tournament at the plate with their seven-run seventh.

Helena used three singles, three walks, a triple a double, an error and a sac fly to post their seven runs.

Moss led the team at the plate with a 2-for-4 game featuring two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. Thompson added a 2-for-3 game with two RBIs and a run scored as well. Santos also added two hits and posted an RBI, while nine different players had at least one RBI in the game.

Jacob Peters got the start on the mound and allowed six hits and four runs while striking out three.

Game 6: Helena 6, Hoover 14 

Despite outhitting Hoover 12-10 in the semifinals of the tournament, Helena left 10 runners on base compared to six by the Buccaneers to drop what became its final game of the tournament by a final score of 14-6.

Hoover scored at least three runs in the first three innings of the game starting with six in the first and followed by three in the second and five in the third, which forced the Huskies into an uphill battle the remainder of the way.

Helena scored in three consecutive innings between the second and fourth, but still trailed 14-5 at that point. The Huskies were only able to manage one more run in the top of the seventh following that stretch to pick up the loss.

Wilburn went 3-for-4 at the plate, while Turner, Heacock and Thompson each added 2-for-4 games. Riley Marks ended the game 1-for-3 with a team-high two RBIs.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.