Helper gets gouged by Bear River
It may have been the long layoff. It may have been the high seeding that Helper received. It may have been that the men on the team forgot how good a Bear River team could be.
No matter what the reason, the Helper American Legion entry in the state tournament took it on the chin on Saturday evening at Oquirrh Park in Kearns, getting clipped by the Bears 3-2 and sending them into the losers bracket play on Monday afternoon against Copper Hills.
A loss in the first round of a double elimination tournament is not necessarily the kiss of death for a team, but it sure makes it a lot harder to go all the way to a state championship.
The game began slowly. With well over a week off since the last game, in which the Helper bats had been so hot they could have been used to fuse metal, the hitting was far from what it had been.
On Helpers side of the inning great pitching by Jamal Lewis began the game with high hopes of a later-in-the-game rout.
In the second inning however, Bear River scored making it 1-0 when the third inning started.
In the next two innings the pitching by both teams was superb. Many of the players on the Helper squad had faced this very similar group of players from Tremonton in May when Carbon High faced the Bears in the state quarter finals. In that game the Bears pitching was very good; they just ran out of steam. Not so on Saturday afternoon.
In the fourth inning the Bears scored again and the small lead jumped to 2-0 something the Helper men have overcome almost all season.
Then in the fifth period, Helper got warmed up a little as they drove in a run based on some singles. Helper fans were just waiting for the bats to break lose with more runs, but the familiar crack of the bat was absent for the Helper team.
The Bears then scored in the top of the seventh, but everyone had confidence that Helper could come back from the small deficit they faced, and they almost did.
With the score 3-1, Kalib Curtis came up to bat and hit one of his big drives; a triple which got past the Bears.
At that point Mark Bailey was on base and the hit drove him in making the score 3-2. It looked as if Curtis would also score, knotting up the score, but a throw by third baseman Mitch Ramsell that bounced off a concrete pad and into the hands of the catcher put Curtis out at home.
Bear River played a good game, but had three errors against seven hits.
By all accounts, Helper should have won. They had tremendous pitching from Lewis and Travis Barnett, garnered eight hits and made only one error in the contest.
The problem was that they just couldn't string the hits together at the right time in the game, and the fact that all but one were singles hurt their scoring chances a great deal.
Helper was not the only high seed to go down in flames on Saturday however. Both Mountain Crest, the winner of the northern division and Cedar City, the winner of the south crashed to the ground too.
This Helper team, however, has proven it's gumption all season, by coming back again and again. Only time will tell if this time it is different.