Helper kicks off home stretch
|The Helper American Legion baseball team looks to catch a spot in the state tournament next month. If the local squad misses the final seed, they will then compete in a mini tournament to earn an appearance in the finals.|
The American Legion season has proven to be a roller coaster ride for the Helper team this year. After starting off slow, the team picked up the pace and rebounded by winning several ball games. Then the slump returned and the squad found themselves struggling for a victory.
To bring in the second half of the season, Helper kicked off the final stretch with three wins in Pocatello, Idaho during a four day tourney. They then captured two more wins in legion action to put them in the running for a seed in the final tournament next month.
Now it seems as if that dip in the road has appeared once again for Helper who suffered two losses last week. But the good news, they bounced back with a win this past Monday.
So where does the team currently stand in the legion standings? It's hard to say, but with only three games left on their season roster, Helper is faced with the reality that each game is important in order to push out the other teams fighting for the final tournament seed.
The dry spell hit July 11 as the local team faced Wasatch. The road game quickly turned disastrous.
According to Helper co-coach, Jeff Cisneros, the ball club made several mistakes and didn't take advantage of the opportunities that they had at their hands.
In fact, the Helper squad left 13 guys on base during the legion game. By not following through, Cisneros explained that this cost the team the ball game.
By the end of seven innings, Helper had lost by the final score, 11-3.
The following day, Helper traveled to Tooele to take on one of the legion teams who is currently fighting for that final tournament seed.
It looked as if things were going to turn around for Helper as they entered the fifth inning ahead of Tooele, 2-1. This is when the squad let their guard down and Tooele capitalized.
With seven runs in the fifth, Tooele easily jumped ahead of the Carbon team and held throughout the next two innings to win the ball game, 8-2.
"We just keep making mental mistakes. Although these don't show up in numbers on the record book, they do show up in the final score," explained Cisneros. "These mistakes cost us two important ball games. We lost to the two wrong teams last week and now we have to fight hard to make it to the tourney."
With the thoughts of being left behind when the tournament starts in August, Helper stepped up and polished up their skills as they faced the Kearns 2 team this past Monday.
As the local team entered the match up, they had concerns about their opponent who was ranked fourth in the legion standings. This added to the fact that Kearns captured the annual Helper tournament title in June, had the Castle Valley team nervous.
Troy Grundy stepped out on to the field and pitched the entire game for Helper. Along with Grundy, Mike Smith also came forward to assist the Helper squad in capturing a 5-4 legion victory over Kearns.
Entering the seventh inning, Helper was ahead of the Kearns team, 4-3. During this inning however, the home team managed to score one run and tie the ball game up.
In the eighth inning, Helper managed to score one run which boosted them into the winner's bracket.
Smith had a good showing at bat as he finished the game with two doubles and three RBI's.
"This was a good win for us. Hopefully it will get us back on track for the final week of season action," commented Cisneros.
Wednesday, Helper was scheduled to face Highland in a game which is a must win for the squad.
Friday, the team will return home for their final game of the season. Helper will kick off action beginning at 6 p.m. as they host Orem, a legion team who is in a similar playoff situation.
"If we lose one of these games, it will put us in a scrunch. Right now we sit at 8-6 and I believe we are one game ahead of Tooele. We also have Orem on our back who is looking for the final tournament seed. It will be a rough two games, but we have to step up to the challenge," explained the Helper coach.
Even if Helper doesn't make the top six teams roster, they will still have a chance of making it to the state tourney in August.
Cisneros explained that the seven through 14 ranked teams will compete in a mini tournament of sorts. The format will pit the higher ranked team against the lowest ranked team and the pairings will move up the ladder accordingly.
The downside of the mini tourney is that the format is single elimination. That means that each team has to play their best ball in order to earn the chance to compete at the state event.
"Usually, the team that comes into the state tourney from the mini tournament does quite well. They continue to play for a week while all the other teams get a rest. This gives them somewhat of an advantage," Cisneros pointed out.
With only two games left on their schedule, Cisneros explained to the team that it is extremely important for them to give 100 percent each game.
"We need to show up every day and play our best. It seems as if every team in the league wants to beat Helper this year because we had such a successful season last summer. Therefore, it is important that we don't let these teams take advantage of us," Cisneros concluded.