East County Sports

ROUNDUP: Cougars over Helix in battle of leaders


East County Sports staff report

LA MESA (4-12-2019) – The CIF power rating index to determine playoff seeding has led to several changes, including the demise of the Grossmont Conference Tournament.

So when schools from East County’s Grossmont Valley League receive an opportunity to beat their neighborhood “big bullies” from the Hills League, it really means something to win.

Case-in-point: the Steele Canyon Cougars, which needed nine innings to post a 5-4 triumph over host Helix, a club on pace to capture a fourth straight Grossmont Hills League championship.

It may not be the biggest win of the season for the Cougars, which meets Valhalla over the final week of the regular season to determine the Grossmont Valley League champion. However, it may be their most satisfying.

Even better: it was a come-from-behind triumph after trailing 4-1 through two innings.

And way better: the winning run came on a steal of home plate by Gabe Vidana.

In the 9th, Helix pitchers hit the first two batters, but one was erased on a double play, with Vidana moving to third base.

With an open base, Billy Tellous (2-for-4) was intentionally walked.

With Carlos Camacho at the plate, Steele Canyon expected a wasted pitch on an 0-2 count. So the coaches sent Tellous, who’s better known for his power than his speed.

Tellous stole second base. And when the ball went through the infield, Vidana vaulted home and beat the return throw to score.

Cougars relief pitcher Jonathan Kenney then retired the Highlanders in order. He pitched a pair of shutout innings to collect the victory.

“Our plan today was to have me as a late relief or closer for our game,” Kenney said. “I was lucky enough to get trusted with the ball in such a crucial situation while we were tied.”

Helix gained the early led as Eric Smelko batter 2-for-5 with two RBI.

“Playing in extra innings back to back days is physically and mentally draining,” Smelko said. “They played it like it was the 7th game of the World Series and they surprised with their intensity.

“Thomas Caneday pitched well and kept us in the game. He pitched with heart and desire but he just got unlucky in the 6th.

“We made some miscues defensively in the 6th and that’s what got us,” Smelko said.

“We’ve had some tough losses this season and we’ve bounced back pretty well. We expect to come back strong in the Lions Club against some tough opponents.”

Steele Canyon got with three runs on a two-out rally in the 5th.

Richard Pedrin and Sebastian Granados singled. Pedrin scored on a passed ball, then Granados came home on a Cade Stein single to make it 4-3.

And when Vidana doubled to left, Stein came home to tie the contest.

“I hit better pitching in general and going into Helix you know your gonna face dudes and I was ready and focused and hit the ball well,” Tellous said.

For Steele Canyon (10-6 overall) the bullpen threw six shutout innings, as Jack Schlotman allowed just two hits over four frames, then Kenney yielded just one hit.

“Today my go to put pitch was my slider because I had great command over it,” Kenney said. “It worked really well with my fastball and changeup pair that would help set up my out pitch.

“My team was able to push through and get me that last run and then trust me to go back out on the mound to finish the game.”

Helix slipped to 11-8.

CATHEDRAL CATHOLIC 7, CHRISTIAN 6: At Manchester Field in Carmel Valley, the host Dons have already lost to Helix, Grossmont (twice), Granite Hills and Santana this season.

So the Patriots asked, “Why not us, too?”  And they almost did.

Christian rallied with four runs in the 5th inning, but Cathedral Catholic closer Cooper Rons was barely able to post a 3-inning save to cling to a tie with Scripps Ranch for the Western League lead.

It would’ve been the win of the year for the last-place Patriots, yet they gave the Dons a mighty scare after Christian pitchers Braeden Ross and Peyton Berroth combined on a 4-hitter.

However, five unearned runs in the 3rd inning proved to be the back-breaker.

In the 5th, Christian mounted a comeback when second baseman Fisher Ransom stroked a lead single, catcher Matt Souza reached on an error, then first baseman Isaiah Owens (2-for-2, walk) and Eric Markowicz each lined RBI singles.

Cathedral Catholic believed they would escape by turning a double play, but Ross followed by rocking a 3-1 pitch over the fence in right field for a 2-run homer.

“This year has been a battle for me for sure,” Ross said. “Since we play the top pitching every single game it’s hard to get hits as a underclassmen player.

“Lately, I’ve been squaring many balls up they just haven’t been finding grass. That’s just baseball. I saw a fastball in a good hitters count and I got all of it, felt really good to get one off Cathedral.

“(My) command on the mound was really sharp (over the) first two innings, and then struggled a bit after that.

“(The) team is starting to gel together and should come back from our spring break trip ready to get some wins.”

Christian gained additional momentum but turning a 6th-inning double play, but Ross was able to retire the Patriots final seven batters to close the door.

For the Dons (10-8 overall, 5-1 Western), second baseman Marcello Marino and shortstop Joel Stevens each posted 2-run singles.

Christian (6-14, 0-8 league) saw Ransom and Isaiah Owens collected two of the ball club’s 10 hits.

“We had another implosion inning where we made four errors and they scored six runs,” Christian High head coach Mike Mitchell said. “I would not call it one of our best games, but we did do a very good job battling at the plate to keep us in the game.”

CALVARY CHRISTIAN (Chula Vista) 4, MOUNTAIN EMPIRE 0: At Campo, RedHawks pitcher Trevor Elliott posted another stellar effort by firing a 2-hitter.

However, seven errors by the hosts saw three unearned runs come home and give the win to the Purple Knights.

Winning pitcher Malachi Chapman scattered four hits to post the team’s second straight shutout to assume the leadership of the Citrus League for Calvary Christian (8-2 overall, 2-0 league), leading idle The Rock.

Mountain Empire (7-5, 1-1 league) received a double by Elliott, plus base hits from Damian Cruz-Gastelum, Sean Hodge and Nick Rose.

Elliott is nearing 400 career strikeout and is nine strikeouts away from becoming No. 2 in San Diego Section history on the all-time strikeouts list.

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