Alma Spoils Outing By Prairie Grove’s Heltemes
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.”