Alma Spoils Out­ing By Prairie Grove’s Hel­temes

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS WEEK - Mike Cap­shaw

ROGERS — Head­ing into Fri­day’s game, Prairie Grove coach Chris Mile­ham said he planned to pitch by com­mit­tee, mean­ing each pitcher would see a cou­ple of in­nings at the most.

Mile­ham’s plans changed thanks to se­nior right-han­der Gavin Hel­temes. The Cof­feyville (Kan.) Com­mu­nity Col­lege signee struck out the first nine Alma bat­ters he faced and fanned 12 while pitch­ing five per­fect in­nings. He threw 61 strikes on 91 pitches while mix­ing in a slider with a run­ning fast­ball.

But a six-run sixth in­ning spoiled Hel­temes’ per­for­mance as Alma held on for a 6-4 vic­tory in the Best Sports Clas­sic at Vet­eran’s Park.

“We had a game plan, but sure enough, we went in the other di­rec­tion,” Mile­ham said. “Gavin was still pound­ing the [ strike] zone, and we knew we were go­ing to have to go get him if he didn’t re­tire the next hit­ter — and we just kind of let him down de­fen­sively.”

Alma (2-4) be­gan the sixth in­ning with three con­sec­u­tive sin­gles be­fore Hel­temes (1-1) walked in a run. Back-to-back Prairie Grove (3-3) er­rors then evened the score at 3-all, and Hel­temes was re­lieved by Lo­gan Gragg, who balked in a run and gave up a two-run sin­gle to right by Cameron Ogilvie.

Airedales coach Kevin Ed­wards’ first re­ac­tion af­ter the game was sim­ply, “Wow!”

“I told [Hel­temes] af­ter the game that he threw a heck­uva game — That was very, very im­pres­sive,” Ed­wards said. “But like I kept telling the guys, we had to find a way to fi­nally bust through [against Hel­temes] and good things hap­pened.”

Reed Orr was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs to pace the Tigers’ of­fense, which gen­er­ated five hits to­tal.

Prairie Grove was shutout 12-0 by Con­way, last sea­son’s Class 7A state run­ner-up, in its only other game dur­ing the Best Sports Clas­sic. The Tigers only mus­tered two hits and struck out 11 times in five in­nings against Wam­pus Cats starter Lane Cald­well.

“We’re get­ting bet­ter at the plate, we re­ally are,” Mile­ham said. “This time of year the pitch­ing is al­ways ahead of the hit­ting, but I’m see­ing lots of im­prove­ments and lots of ad­just­ments be­ing made be­cause we’re re­ally work­ing hard at prac­tice and in the bat­ting cage. I’m happy with the ad­just­ments be­ing made and you’re start­ing to see it come around.

“I’m not by any means wor­ried about it.”

Hel­temes

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