East County Sports

Hot, hot Highlanders explode in opener



Helix slugger Ben Haar opens the season with a second-inning grand slam, one of four home runs by the Highlanders to easily stomp Mater Dei Catholic, 16-1 / Suzanne Whitman

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

LA MESA — Head coaches at both Helix and Grossmont high schools desired to point out that it takes considerably more than simply slugging the long ball to become a champion, as these perennial competitors for CIF-San Diego Section championships would like to remind everyone.

Still, in the 2022 season openers for both clubs, it’s hard to ignore the boxscores.

The Highlanders went deep four times, while the Foothillers clouted three more Monday (Feb. 21), as the pair of powers combined for 33 total runs in dominant, tournament-opening victories.

Helix 16, Mater Di Catholic 1
LA MESA — Highlanders senior Ben Haar, who already owns signed scholarships papers to the University of San Diego, overwhelmed visiting Mater Dei Catholic — and it only took about five minutes.

Gaining the Opening Day pitching start, the left-handed throwing Haar overcame a first-inning leadoff homer by belting a powerful drive which bounded beyond the right-field fence and bounced onto Lowell Street. His second-inning grand slam was the highlight of an 8-run explosion to quickly dispose of the Crusaders.

Helix third baseman Wyatt Laub ripped a leadoff homer to start the rally. .Then in the fourth, 6-foot-5 first bsseman James “Slim” Whitman had a 3-run homer.

However, the loudest applause of the contest — both from the dugout and the stands — came in the sixth when head coach Cole Holland cleared the bench and allowed Trevor Young, one of the Scotties 16 seniors on the roster, to pinch-hit for Haar.

Frankly, Young is a hard-worker who is only on the varsity since seniors are not allowed on the JV program. However, Young quickly demonstrated that he belongs with the big boys.

After watching a called first strike, the next MDC offering to Young was drilled over the barrier in left for a lead homer to place a cap on the scoring.

Then in the seventh, the Crusaders were reminded how bad a day this became. Chopper Correia pounced on a high strike in what could be described as the hardest hit ball on the afternoon, However, the line shot landed directly into Laub’s glove at third base for the disheartening  out.

On the mound, Haar allowed just two additional hits after the homer, striking out six in his four innings to gain the victory. Three relievers fired three frames of no-hit ball in the combined 3-hitter.

For Helix (1-0) the 16 runs represented the school’s most since a 19-0 blanking of El Capitan on May 11, 2019. In addition, the Scotties JV also scored 17 runs on Monday.

Grossmont 15, Westview 2

EL CAJON — A long, long winter for the Grossmont Foothillers may be over, but there pain still remains for those returning ballplayers.

The Hillers spent most of the 2021 season on track to set school, conference and East County records for home runs. They established records with 29 total victories, plus numerous individual achievements,

However, they still fell one win short for the CIF-San Diego Section Open Division championship. Despite three earlier decisions over Eastlake, the Titans claimed the season finale for the section crown.

How the Hilers have not forgotten, taking an offseason filled with frustration and turned it into a comfortable 15-2 triumph over Westview in Monday’s (Feb. 21) President’s Day special.

“It’s not always about hitting home runs,” said Grossmont head coach Jordan Abrzzo. “It’s also about getting kys hits, running the bases well, along with pitching and defense.”

Unlike Helix, which posts a roster of 16 seniors, there is a major roster shuffle at the top of the summit. Still, if everything starts to click like the working over of the Wolverines, things should be fine for the defending Grossmont Hills League champions.

The new kingpin on the pitching staff is Mason Dirkes, who, like Helix’ Haar, a senior left-hander. For those attending the opener, the scouts liked what they saw in his 6-strikeout outing.

Mason went six innings and only allowed one run — it was a freat start to his season,” Abruzzo noted. “I’m happy with the way we played today and happy for Mason.”

Of course, there were the home runs.

Junior shortstop Anthony Box-Augustine batted 3-for-3 with three RBI, featuring a 2-run shot to right field out of Gizoni Field in the second inning.

The rally started on a lead home run, also to right, by Jose Carranza. River Diaz-De Leon followed with a one-out double to left, then Carranza’s shot made it 3-0.

Veteran Noah Barnes also went deep among his two hits woth a pair of RBI.

.“It was a good start for us,” added the skipper. “We have a lot of new guys in there this year and we are still trying to find our identity.

“But, yes, we have a lot of guys new to varsity this year so it was nice to get mostly everyone in the game.”

Among the contriutors included Cody Bigley, who batted 2-for-4 and also knocked in a pair of runs,

After mounting a 5-0 lead, Grossmont (1-0) posted seven additional markers in the fourth, Following a pair of bases-loaded walks, key hits came from Michael Cervantes (two-run single), and run-scoring basehits by Diaz-De Leon, Bigley and ox-Augustine.

Westview (0-1) received two hits and an RBI from senior infielder Trevor Doud.

It was reported that the GameChanger app for score-keeping and reporting purposes was down late Monday night. Thus, we have no reports on the following contests:

Steele Canyon 6, Monte Vista 2
Valhalla 6, San Diego HS 1
West Hills 3, San Ysidro 0
Patrick Henry 9, Ramona 3
El Camino 9, Foothills Christian 1

We ask the coaches to report dirctly to us until the problem in Florida is solved. Thanks!


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