|Landon Watson goes for the tag at third.|
The American Legion baseball season officially kicked off this past weekend as the Helper team, composed of a number of Emery County players, hosted its annual tournament. The four day event allowed teams from across the state to compete while improving their baseball skills.
In the first game on Thursday evening, the Helper kids faced Cedar City. After much consternation by the Helper team, they finally beat Cedar 6-4 in eight innings.
In the beginning it was slow as the Cedar team scored first, and then in the next inning the Helper squad was able to tie it up. However, it didn't remain that way.
Helper came on strong in the fourth inning and was able to take what seemed a commanding 4-1 lead, based on the way Cedar was playing.
But inning by inning the southern Utah team inched its way back into the game by scoring a run here and there, and holding the Helper team scoreless, despite some good attempts by Utahns to reach home base.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Cedar was able to make up a one run deficit early on and then put three men on base and ready to score, but Matt Jewkes, pitching with the same type of skill and determination that helped win the state championship game in 2001 for Carbon High, held off the challenging batters and it put the game into extra innings.
Carbon came on strong in the top of the eighth inning scoring two runs, and having no outs on the big lighted board. This made the score 6-4, probably not enough of a margin for team manager Jeff Cisneros and team coach Jeff Jewkes liking. But Cedar was then able to put three quick outs on the Helper team.
But the Helper defense held in the bottom of the eighth, despite the fact a runner was able to take advantage of a couple of situations after hitting a single and made it to third.
It seems with this Helper team, when they are challenged, or in a tight spot they produce.
Helpers pitching contingent in this game was very good for the first of the season. Jamal Lewis pitched the first three innings, then East Carbon's Tony McFarland, who has had little chance to throw the ball even in practice for this summer league, did a very good job for the next two innings. That is when Jewkes came on the scene and wrapped things up for Helper.
After beginning the tournament successfully, the Helper team stepped up to bat against Upper Valley from Rexburg, Idaho. The game proved to be one which was a struggle for the Helper team to put away.
Although Helper played strong, the Upper Valley team was difficult to beat. In fact, the visiting team defeated Helper 8-4 on Friday. The Idaho team did not suffer a loss throughout the entire tournament. Despite the impressive winning record, the Upper Valley team left before the tournament Sunday.
After splitting the first two games, the Helper team moved on to play in its first league game of the season against Cyprus. The game was pitched by Troy Grundy who helped lead the Carbon Dino team into the state championships this year. Grundy proved what a talented player he is as he struck out eight Cyprus hitters.
The game began slowly, with neither team scoring by the end of the second inning. As the third inning rolled around however, Helper managed to pull a couple of tricks out of their bag and found themselves leading the ball game.
The Helper rally began with a single hit by Jeff Fielder followed by a walk by Jewkes. Then Jamal Lewis stepped up to bat and completed a double, forcing Fielder to score one run for Helper.
Jewkes found his opportunity to further Helper's lead as he scored a run on a Cyprus error. By the end of the inning, the Helper team found themselves on top of the scoreboard by the score of 2-0. This score would follow the team throughout the remainder of the game and allowed the team to finish successfully in their first league game of the season.
The victory served as a strong beginning to the season for the Helper team. The Cyprus team was one of the top 5A teams this season, and for Helper to defeat the team quite easily, the win serves as a strong start for a long season.
Sunday hosted the tournament championship. Because the Cedar City team left early, Helper stepped up to play in their place, forcing the team to compete in two games the final day of the tourney.
In the first game played Sunday, Helper faced Judge. Despite several Helper players not competing in the game, the team faired quite well. In fact, players who don't get the opportunity to play as much as others were able to compete. The game was an entire team effort and lead to a Helper victory, 8-4.
In the final game Helper played, the team battled for the tournament championship against West Jordan. According to team manager Jeff Cisneros, the team could have played better. "The weather was miserable. Although the team did not play as well as was hoped for, the players did gain valuable experience. It was a long weekend which may have lead to the downfall Sunday," explained Cisneros.
Helper fell to West Jordan 9-0, completing the annual tournament, but only beginning the much anticipated season for the local ball club.
The Helper team will play both Wednesday and Friday at the American Legion field at 6 p.m. each night. (Courtesy of the Sun Advocate.)