East County Sports

Highlanders advance to Open title game



By Ramon Scott



SAN DIEGO – Helix High senior left-hander CONNOR KONISHI had a couple of jobs to do to Thursday afternoon at Cathedral Catholic High’s Lynch & Allred Field.

Konishi delivers a pitch on Thursday.

Konishi wasn’t just entrusted to deliver the biggest performance of his career in the biggest game of his career, but he also wanted to do it in a timely fashion so that he and the other nine seniors on the Scotties could return to La Mesa in time for tonight’s graduation ceremonies at Hart Stadium.

Konishi delivered a five-hit shutout as the Highlanders returned to the CIF Championship game for the first time in six years with a 4-0 victory over the Dons.

Konishi allowed four hits, striking out five and walking one. He retired the side in order in the second, third and fourth and innings.

On the offensive side, the San Jose State-bound Konishi had two hits, scored a run and drove one home.

Fittingly, he closed the game with a strikeout, sending the Scots to USD’s Fowler Park on Saturday night at 7 p.m. making their ninth overall section title game appearance (three CIF championships).

The 22-11 Highlanders, will face surging power Eastlake (31-4), the state’s fourth-ranked team, which surprisingly, hasn’t won a CIF title since 2002. The Titans also advanced with a sudden-elimination win on Thursday, defeating Madison, 4-3.

Peterson connects for Helix on Thursday.

Helix scored on a fielder’s choice grounder in the first inning when BRANDON PETERSON, who reached three times, drove in AUSTIN KRETZSCHMAR, who lined a single to center with one out. ERICK SMELKO also singled, which put Peterson into scoring position.

Helix added a second run in the second inning on a two-out double to left by senior MATTHEW RICHARDSON, driving home Konishi, who led off the frame with a single to center.

The Scotties added two more in the top of the fifth when Richardson led off with a single to right, followed by a sacrifice, a hit batsman and walk to load the bases.

Junior ZACK OWENS lifted a sacrifice fly to right to make it 3-0, as Richardson came in.

Konishi followed with a line single to left, scoring Smelko.

The Dons had a decent two-out threat against Konishi in the fifth, putting two men aboard, but Konishi recorded a strikeout to end the chance.

Konishi scattered a hit in each of the last two frames, leaving time for a dog pile celebration on the Dons’ infield.

“We had three goals,” Konishi said. “Check off (Grossmont Hills) League, get into the Open, then win an Open Division championship. Hopefully, we can check off the third one.”

Cathedral Catholic, the defending Open Division champions and the second-seed in this year’s tournament, shut out the Highlanders on Tuesday, 1-0, forcing Thursday’s deciding game.

“Our mentally in the first game just wasn’t how we usually are,” Konishi said, “But we came back, all of our seniors wanted it.”

Helix players, including ERICK SMELKO (7),  celebrate following a score on Thursday.

The Highlanders now turn their attention to Saturday against the star-studded Titans, who lost to Cathedral in last year’s Open final.

Seniors Casey Schmitt and Ben Ramirez and joined by juniors Grant Holman and Michael Pietila-Wiggs as key players in Eastlake’s lineup.

Cather Bryan Reyes hit a two-run home run in the Titans win to help clinch their berth in the game.

Helix tangled with the Titans twice during the regular season, losing both times.

Eastlake dominated the first meeting in the championship game of the Aztec-Foothiller Classic at Grossmont High on March 18, winning 9-0 on the strength of three home runs.

The Titans edged the Highlanders five days later in La Mesa, 4-2, during the early round of the Grossmont-Metro-City Tournament, as KEATON CHASE pitched a complete game for Helix.

With JORDAN JACKSON used as the starter on Tuesday, followed by Konishi, the call should come for Chase and Smelko on Saturday night.

If the Titans don’t use FasTrak already, they likely should by next year, owning a 9-1 record this season against East County teams.

Rnd 5 – Thur., June 1, 2017 
SDCIF Playoffs – Rnd 5
Helix             ab r h bi Cathedral       ab r h bi
Richardson  ss     3 1 2 1  Allred cf        2 0 0 0
Kretzschmar 3b     3 1 1 0  Becerra 2b       3 0 0 0
Smelko cf          3 1 2 0  Whitesides 3b    3 0 1 0
Peterson 2b        2 0 1 1  Brown 1b         3 0 0 0
Owens dh           3 0 0 1  Hoffman ss       3 0 2 0
Konishi p          3 1 2 1  Nastrini p       1 0 0 0
Jackson pr         0 0 0 0  Rons 3b-p        2 0 0 0
Isbell c           3 0 0 0  Polinsky c       3 0 1 0
Padilla rf         3 0 0 0  Demgen rf        3 0 1 0
Oquita 1b          2 0 0 0  Caulk dh         2 0 0 0
Kovalcheck         - - - -  Campos           - - - -
TOTALS            25 4 8 4  TOTALS          25 0 5 0

 (7)Helix     (22-10) 110 020 0 – 4 8 0
 (2)Cathedral (25-9)  000 000 0 – 0 5 0

DP-Cath 1.
LOB-Hel 9, Cath 5.
2B-Richardson. SB-Peterson, Allred. Sac-Kretzschmar, Isbell. SF-Owens.

Helix            ip  h  r eb bb so
 Konishi W(4-4) 7.0  5  0  0  1  5
 Nastrini L     4.1  5  4  4  2  2
 Straza         0.0  0  0  0  1  0
 Rons           2.2  8  4  4  3  3
HBP-Nastrini, Rons 2, Konishi, Richarson, Smelko.

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