Baseball: Grant blanks Schaumburg for trip to state semifinals
Updated: June 5, 2012 7:45PM
ROCKFORD — Grant’s big-game pitcher, Jared Helmich, delivered Monday night in the biggest game in school history.
Helmich limited Schaumburg to two hits on two days of rest and the Bulldogs’ offense did the rest in the Class 4A Rockford Supersectional at RiverHawks Stadium.
Grant took a day off after its first sectional final victory Saturday, but the Bulldogs’ bats did not rest.
Grant ripped Schaumburg pitching for 11 hits in a 7-0 victory.
The Bulldogs, who had 16 hits in a 12-11 win over South Elgin Saturday, proved equally as potent against the Saxons, who had little success stopping Grant from making its first state tournament appearance. Grant will play No. 3 Oak Park-River Forest (29-9-1), a 1-0 winner over Highland Park earlier Monday, at 3 p.m. Friday in the state semifinal at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
The Huskies will make their 13th appearance in the state tournament. Grant will make its first appearance.
Helmich (11-1) threw 119 pitches Friday to beat Crystal Lake South 5-2 in the sectional semifinal. He threw 108 pitches in the supersectional. He allowed a single to Colin Bethran in the second and another single to Jordan Grubb in the sixth. Bethran was stranded at third base and only two other Schaumburg (25-14) runners reached scoring position.
Helmich walked one and struck out nine.
“I think the whole mental aspect [was tough] and not physical,” Helmich said about his short turnaround. “I ran a lot and iced [my arm] to prepare to pitch.”
Helmich pitched on two day’s rest for the first time in his career.
“I think what Jared did was an unbelievable job,” said Grant coach Dave Behm, a former Bulldogs player. “In that first inning, he set the tone for our guys to follow.”
Grant (24-11) struck early against starter Max Paolicchi (6-4) with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Bulldogs added another run in the second on Brent Spohr’s RBI single for his second RBI of the game.
Spohr went 3-for-4, drove in two runs and scored another run. Other Grant batters with multiple hits were Jordan Villareal (2-for-4, two runs) and Tino Torres (2-for-3, RBI).
“The coaches told us we would be facing a curve ball pitcher,” Spohr said. “I stayed back. If I’m down 0-2, I stay back and do my job. The whole team did that.”
In the first inning, Jake Ring led off with a walk and then Paolicchi allowed three consecutive hits. Helmich’s infield single scored Ring and Spohr’s single to center field brought in Villareal. Later with two outs, Torres was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to add the third inning.
The Bulldogs added two more runs in the fourth when Villareal scored on a passed ball and Jacob Adams drove in Spohr with a single to right field.
“We knew a lot about this team, but we didn’t know a lot about this pitcher,” Schaumburg coach Paul Groot said. “He stuck it in our ear. He throws one pitch, but he throws hard. For two days rest, he shut us down.”
The Saxons entered the game with wins in 12 of their last 13 games, but couldn’t threaten. The top third of the batting order went 1-for-7 against Helmich. Paolicchi pitched three innings and gave up three walks while striking out five.
“I’m very happy we competed in this tournament as well as I hoped,” Groot said. “I’m proud of this team. I think the whole community is proud.”
The Bulldogs have dedicated their season to former assistant coach Craig Griffis, who died Sept. 11, 2011 due to a diabetes-related illness.
“We know he is looking down on us,” Spohr said. “We do it for him right now. We put 1 finger together and yell, ‘Griffis’ [after games].”
Grant added to its school record wins for a season, but will face one of two West Suburban Silver teams in the state semifinals. OPRF finished third place in its conference and will send right-hander Joe McKune to the mound after using ace Zach Weigel to pitch a complete game in the supersectional.