East County Sports

Eagles making return; Helix opens lead


EastCountySports.com staff report

EL CAJON (4-5-2019) – The Granite Hills Eagles can forget about that recent six-game losing streak. That’s truly ancient history.

The only thing Granite Hills is looking at is a self-created, direct path to least second place after Eagles pitcher Clay Fordham overwhelmed Grossmont, 3-0, in Grossmont Hills “Super League” action on Thursday (Apr. 4).

Fordham (3-1, 1 save), in just his second start of the season, finished with 8 strikeouts in his 3-hit shutout.  The junior’s only other start was a complete-game 4-hitter against Eastlake, allowing just one unearned run.

“My mindset every time I take the mound is to put up zeros and give my team a chance to win,” Fordham said. “There were some tough situations and plays where I had my guys back me up.

“My fastball command was a little off at times but I threw just enough strikes with it to make my slider and changeup effective. It’s games like these, where I’ve said it before, we want the Eagles to be heard throughout the county. We want teams to know when they’re facing us.”

Fordham could become the key to a big second-half run for Granite Hills, as he joins sophomore Noa Ponciano in potentially transitioning into the leading, young starters in the GHL.

“There was some really good small ball today,” Fordham said. “Honestly, That’s not the kind of ball we wanted to play against Helix (in a three-game set of losses) and this is our expectations right now, so it’s really encouraging to see the pieces slowly coming together.”

Fordham capped the victory as strong as he began, overcoming a leadoff error with three straight strikeouts.

“Fordham had all pitches working today,” Granite Hills head coach James Davis said. “Really did a nice job keeping a really good offense off stride.”

Conversely, Grossmont starter Jack Hyde only yielded four hits in another strong outing. However, each hit came in conjunction with a defensive mistake that cost Hyde a pair of unearned runs.

“Facing a guy like Hyde you need to bring your ‘A-game,'” Fordham said. “I can’t say enough about the team effort to just put the ball in play and make things happen. We knew what kind of game it was going to be so we just stuck to our game plan. Hyde has great stuff and is really something special so these wins mean more.”

The Eagles tallied single runs over three consecutive innings for all of the game’s scoring.

In the 2nd inning, Brian Smith reached on an error, advancing on a one-out, sacrifice bunt by Fordham.  Smith then scored *unearned) on a wild pitch,

An inning later, Austin Smith led off, reaching on a sharp single to center. One out later, Ryan Fenn singled but the outfielder misplayed the ball, the speedy Smith again circled the diamond for a 2-0 lead.

“Guys moved guys over in timely situations but I got to say Smitty getting us in the hit column was big,” Fordham said. “Someone needed to set the tone and he stepped up at that moment.”

The lone earned run came in the 4th.

Grant Mac Arthur walked, Fordham singled him to third, then Dillon Goins lifted a sacrifice fly to left field.

“Dillon Goins did I good job driving guys in today,” Fordham said. “Everyone in their own way found a way to produce.”

All three Granite Hills runs came immediately after Grossmont failed to score in its best opportunity.

Isaiah Gomez stroked a single to center to start the 2nd, then Justin Brown reached on an error.

However, unlike the Eagles, the Hillers couldn’t capitalize, as Fordham escaped the runners on the corners by sandwiching a shallow fly out around a pair of strikeouts.

For Granite Hills (8-8 overall, 2-4 GHSL), Art Lopez joined both Smiths by stealing a base.

Grossmont (10-7, 3-3 GHSL) received hits from Brodie Romero, Zakary Farris (double) and Isaiah Gomez.

This decade, Grossmont clings to the series lead over the Eagles, 15-14.

“Adversity can be a great thing if you embrace it and challenge it,” Grossmont head coach Jordan Abruzzo said. “Baseball reveals character and we have the opportunity to find out what we are made of.”

HELIX 8, SANTANA 2:  At Santee, Highlanders third baseman Alonzo Richardson batted 4-for-5 from the leadoff spot and scored three times, allowing Helix to open a 2-game in the Grossmont Hills “Super League” to derail host Santana.

Scotties cleanup hitter Carlos Oquita drove in two runs, oddly, neither was Richardson, as a balanced Helix attack sent the Sultans to their third straight setback.

“I’m just happy with the way we have been playing,” said Helix head coach Cole Holland of his team which has won four straight and six of its last seven. “Small victories.”

Helix had a 6-0 advantage by the third, a cushion starting pitcher Thomas Caneday carried in his six innings of throwing 1-hit ball.

I’ve heard this league is one of the toughest around,” Caneday said. “At this point, you’ve got to bring your ‘A-game’ every pitch. And if the matchup is aligned that way, we’ll bring it just like we did in our last series against them.”

The run in the 6th was unearned.

“I’ve been working on a new pitch and used it today for the first time in a game,” Caneday said. “It worked really well. Solid defense and a strong offense makes a pitcher’s job easy.”

Richardson opened the contest with a booming double, later scoring on a wild pitch. Then he again opened the 3rd, but the hit energized by the Highlanders.

Richardson put the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield but beat the throw for a scratch single. Eric Smelko accepted his second consecutive walk, then Jordon Thompson singled home Richardson for a 2-0 lead.

Oquita followed by lining a 2-run double to left, scoring Smelko and Thompson to double the lead to 4-0. Then a Grossmont error allowed two additional runs to score.

For Helix (10-6 overall, 5-1 GHSL), five of the team’s eight hits went for doubles, including two by Richardson. The others were by Justin Cervantes, Carlos Oquita and Erick Rodriguez.

“We had a great day today offensively with guys such as Alonzo Richardson, Eric Smelko and others that hit amazing and scored tons of runs,” said the Highlanders’ Luis Rios, who pitched the final inning. “With that, it took the pressure off our pitching and defense.

“It did get a tad scary in that last inning. But I trust my stuff and trust the guys that are playing defense behind me. So I had to just pound the zone and let them put the ball in play. Luckily, I was able to do just that and secure the win for us.”

Santana (7-9, 2-4 GHSL) received an RBI on a ground out by Tyler Fitzgerald, scoring Brandon Glowacki (safe on error) in the 6th. The other run came in the 7th on consecutive singles by pinch hitter Kyle Sebastian (run), Blake Taylor and Aidan Donvoan (RBI).

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