East County Sports

Highlanders nail down Hills crown

2018 Grossmont Hills League champion Helix Highlanders

 2018 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL

 

EastCountySports.com staff report

 

LA MESA – The Helix Highlanders won the Grossmont Hills League championship on Thursday afternoon with a 9-4 victory over second-place challenger, Granite Hills.

The Highlanders won the title on Senior Day after overtaking the Eagles early 1-0 lead.

Officially, Helix (9-3 GHL, 21-8 overall) won its third-straight GHL patch and finished two games ahead of runners-up Granite Hills and Grossmont.

The victory assures the Scotties a fast-rising placement in the San Diego CIF Open Division playoffs.

Helix led 6-1 after four innings before Granite closed to within 6-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.

Helix senior CARLOS OQUITA put the contest away with a three-run home run to center in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Scotties a 9-3 lead. He had four RBI and scored three runs on the afternoon.

“It was the first pitch of the at-bat,” Oquita said. “As a pitcher, you are always trying to get ahead in the count so I was just ready to hit the first pitch.

“He threw me a first-pitch fastball and I was able to drive it back up the middle. I’m pretty sure center field is 360-feet so it was somewhere around there.”

Senior BRANDON PETERSON, who led off the inning with a single, and sophomore ALONZO RICHARDSON, who added a one-out single, scored on the blast.

Peterson went 4-for-4 in the biggest contest of the GHL season.

Richardson went 3-for-4 and scored a pair of runs.

“It was a good team win,” Richardson said. “We wanted to win coach (COLE) HOLLAND his first solo league championship and keep the momentum going into playoffs.”

Helix junior GRIFFIN ZAMORA pitched five innings for the victory.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better offense to pitch behind,” Zamora said. “Eleven hits off of one of the best pitchers in our league is not easy.”

Granite Hills senior JAKE FENN homered twice in the game, including a shot off the top of the fence in left-center field in the top of the sixth for the Eagles’ third run.

Fenn got the Eagles off to the lead with a solo bomb to center leading off the second. He added an RBI single in the top of the seventh.

“The first one was a no-doubter and the second just barely made it,” Fenn said. “My swing is feeling good and I’m ready for CIF.

The Highlanders tied the game in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from junior ADAM MARTINEZ, which drove in Oquita (single).

Peterson followed with an infield single to score junior ERIC SMELKO (single).

Helix extended the advantage to 4-1 when senior ZACK OWENS hit a line single to right, scoring Richardson (single).

“They are a good hitting team,” Fenn said. “Gotta give them credit, they hit the ball well today.”

The Highlanders pitched cautiously to Eagles’ hot slugger and starting pitcher in the contest, senior TREVOR HAZELHURST, who walked three times.

“We just need to work on the defensive side,” Hazelhurst said. “Everything else is fine.”

Junior SEAN MCGREW had an RBI single in the fifth for Granite, scoring sophomore DILLON GOINS (walk).

Granite Hills (7-5 GHL, 15-11) are a sure top-four seed in the Division I playoffs, giving the team a bye in the opening round of the postseason.

The Highlanders shared the championship last year with Santana and were co-champs with Granite Hills and Grossmont in 2016.

“Coach Holland definitely deserves to be considered as Coach of the Year,” Richardson said.

Helix won its fifth-straight game and ended up with just three losses in a league ranked as one of the toughest in the nation.

“It feels great to end the season with a win and it feels even better to win league for the third year in a row,” Zamora said. “Coach Holland is a great coach and I love pitching for him.

“He holds me accountable for my actions, picks me up when I do something good, and I will do anything I possibly can to win him a CIF championship.”

The win over the Eagles gave Helix a 5-1 record against its two closest pursuers in the pennant race.

“This was was a great momentum booster in every aspect of the game,” Zamora said. “We scored nine runs, our defense was solid, and our pitching got the job done,

“If we keep playing how we played today, i think we have a good chance at winning a CIF championship.”

The Highlanders certainly have been producing at the plate during the most critical time of the season.

“It feels good to win league and it definitely propels us into CIF mode,” Oquita said. “We ended league on a good note and hopefully it transfers on to CIF.”

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