His team was playing for the right to keep playing, but Laguna Hills High School pitching ace Wayne Helm wasn’t on the mound when the Hawks took the field at Laguna Hills Friday against Irvine.
Helm pitched seven innings in Laguna Hills’ 5-3 win over Dana Hills on Wednesday, so the starting assignment for the Hawks’ most important game of the season went to a 5-foot-8, 145-pound sophomore named Jay Christensen. Helm, with his 10-2 record and 1.80 earned-run average, was the Hawks’ designated hitter.
Christensen’s performance was hardly overpowering, but it was certainly effective. The right-hander threw strikes and kept his opponents from putting together a big inning, which is more than could be said of Irvine starter Mike Henigan. The result was a 9-2 Laguna Hills win, which gives the Hawks an opportunity to defend their 2-A title.
The win leaves Laguna Hills tied with Mission Viejo for second place in the league standings with an 8-4 record. Mission Viejo won both meetings with the Hawks this season and will thus go to the Southern Section playoffs as the league’s No. 2 representative.
Christensen worked into the seventh inning before giving up back-to-back singles and turning the mound over to Helm, who spent much of the afternoon in the Laguna Hills bullpen, preparing to come in if Christensen faltered.
Helm gave up a single to Jeff Walters to load the bases before retiring the next three hitters to preserve the win.
“I had to bring Helm in, and I didn’t really want to,” Laguna Hills Coach Jack Hodges said. “He threw 120 pitches Wednesday. But I told him this one was for everything, and I asked him to be ready if we needed him.”
For a while, it looked as if Christensen wouldn’t need any help. He was given an early lead when the Hawks scored three runs in the first inning on one hit, one walk, one hit batsman, and one Irvine error. Henigan struggled with his control, hitting four batters and walking two before being relieved by Steve Lipton in the fourth inning.
It was in the fourth inning that Laguna Hills broke the game open. With one out, Henigan hit Chris Latham, gave up a sharp single by Chad Miller and a bunt single by Dave Shetland that loaded the bases. Lipton came in and got Steve Fesperman to ground out, with Latham scoring to extend the Hawks’ lead to 5-1. That brought up Howard Gasser, who hit a wind-blown fly ball to right field that fell for a two-run single.
Dave Stevens walked, and then Helm rolled a single past Henigan at shortstop to drive in Laguna Hills’ fourth run of the inning.
Christensen didn’t record a strikeout, but he walked only one and scattered seven hits for the win that improves his record to 7-4. It was Laguna Hills’ fifth straight win and gives the defending 2-A champions an overall record of 17-9.
“If anybody would have told me that this team would win 17 games before the season started, I would have said, ‘I hope you’re right,’ “Hodges said. “We didn’t have a pitcher with one inning of varsity experience. But these two (Helm and Christensen) have really carried us.”
Friday, it was simply Christensen’s turn.
In other South Coast League action:
Mission Viejo 14, San Clemente 0--Ray Reinders went 4 for 5, including his fifth home run, and drove in five runs as the Diablos routed the host Tritons to finish in a second-place tie with Laguna Hills. Mission Viejo, however, will go to the Southern Section 2-A playoffs as the league’s No. 2 representative since it beat Laguna Hills twice.
The Diablos scored six runs in the first inning, two in the second and two in the third to take a 10-0 lead.
Sean Campbell, who went the first six innings, and Kyle Abbott combined to shut out San Clemente on four hits. Bob Brucato also went 4 for 5 for Mission Viejo. The senior transfer from Chicago wound up the year by setting single-season school records for hits (40), RBIs (29) and average (.465).
El Toro 3, Capistrano Valley 0--Scott Perkins pitched a complete-game five-hitter to lead the league-champion Chargers to the win at Capistrano Valley.
El Toro scored an unearned run in the third inning and added two in the seventh on Chad Fouts’ run-scoring bunt and a bases-loaded walk to Chris Dernovich.
Perkins gave up three straight singles to start the seventh inning but got a force out at the plate, a popup and a strikeout to end it.