Helper's season comes to an end at regionals
Going head-to-head with the best teams in the southwestern U.S., the Helper American Legion baseball team's run after winning a state championship came to an end after suffering back-to-back losses in Arizona.
Helper, who claimed a Utah State Championship on Aug. 2 by defeating Cyprus in consecutive games in Logan, completed their run at the Western Region Tournament in Surprise, Ariz., as they were eliminated from tournament play with a 6-1 loss to League City, Texas on Saturday morning.
The Texas state champions scored runs in each of the first four innings to take an early 4-1 lead that proved to be too much to overcome for Helper. They added two more insurance runs in the eighth to take a 6-1 lead. Helper's lone run came in the third inning as Cole Fossat scored on a Dakota Cisneros sacrifice fly.
Helper starting pitcher Derek Young threw seven innings allowing 10 hits and six runs, four earned while striking out six and walking none.
The Helper offense was kept off balance by Texas starter Joseph Cayer who threw a complete game scattering four hits while allowing one run over nine innings. Helper's Ridge Nielson finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk and was the only Helper player with more than one hit.
After posting an exciting 10-9 come from behind win in their opening game against Tucson, Ariz., Helper seemed to have things in their favor going into their second game against Las Vegas, Nev. Helper watched as a 3-0 lead disappeared in the seventh inning as the Nevada state champions scored four runs over the final two innings sending Helper to a heartbreaking 4-3 loss on Friday evening.
Nevada scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game at 3-3 and took the lead one inning later after Helper's Ridge Nielson made an error allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Through the first six innings, things seemed to be going in Helper's favor as they took an early lead after Bryce Blackburn led off the game with a single and later scored on Jordan Mellen's RBI single. Mellen added two more run scoring hits, including an RBI single in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh. He finished the game 3-for-4 with all three RBIs for Helper.
Helper also got a strong start from Cole Fossat as he kept Las Vegas scoreless through six innings pitching around jams. But Fossat got into trouble in the seventh when he allowed the first two batters to reach on singles. After getting a fly out to left field, the runners advanced as a passed ball got by catcher Derek Young. Las Vegas scored on an RBI single and added another run on a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. Fossat allowed another single before being replaced on the mound by Jarod Lessar. Lessar gave up an RBI single to his first batter which tied the game at 3-3. He was able to work out of a bases loaded jam getting a key strikeout to keep the game tied.
Helper did have one scoring chance in the eighth inning as Jaren McCourt led off the inning with a double but Helper's next three batters were unable to score him from second base.
To illustrate the competitiveness of the play among teams at the tournament, the teams from Tucson and Las Vegas were set to play for the right to represent the southwestern region at the American Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
"The Arizona team we beat and the Nevada team we lost to 4-3 are still playing in the final 3 today," said head coach Jeff Cisneros in an email Monday morning. "We had great support and with one or two more runs we would still be playing. That is how close we were."
With the loss, Helper was eliminated from the regional tournament. In head coach Jeff Cisneros' last season after 20 years as manager of the squad, Helper finishes the season with an overall record of 31-5 and a Utah State Championship.
"We gave it a good run and I'm so proud of our team," Cisneros said. "What a great group of young men. The regional director could not say enough good things about our program and our parents."