The El Capitan baseball team looked Friday as if it had finally solved Helix pitcher Rob Ippolito in the teams’ showdown for the Grossmont 3-A League title.
But while No. 6 El Capitan--which had not beaten Helix since 1986--hit first, the No. 3 Highlanders hit harder on the way to a 10-4 victory that assured the defending league champions at least a tie for the championship.
El Capitan had lost twice to Helix this season, and Ippolito was the winner both times. The Vaqueros scored two runs off him in the first, but Helix (20-5, 6-1) came back and scored in every inning but the sixth.
El Capitan is 17-7 and 5-2, with both its league losses to Helix. The Vaqueros lost, 4-2, at the Hilltop-Moose Tournament and 5-1 in Lakeside, but looked as if they might have some luck Friday.
Sid Melero singled to open the game. After a strikeout, Ippolito gave up a crushing home run to Zak Salmon, and El Capitan led, 2-0.
“We tried to get him to go after some bad pitches,” Ippolito said. “But he hit the right one. I threw the pitch, and I knew it was gone.”
After that, the question in Ippolito’s mind was whether pitching against El Capitan for a third time was once too many.
“That’s exactly what I thought in the first inning,” said Ippolito (8-2). “They were hitting me hard. I thought, ‘Great, it’s going to be a long day.’ ”
Ippolito was right, but it was longest for El Capitan.
The Highlanders got one run back in the bottom of the first, then scored four times in the second to take a 5-2 lead. The key hits were two-run doubles by Jason Ledford and Rich Haar. Ledford was two for three with three RBIs, and Haar was two for three with two doubles and three RBIs.
Ippolito, meanwhile, got into his rhythm and held El Capitan to five hits, only two after the first.
One of the hits should have been a double but was called a home run because of a leaf.
The Helix field has a couple trees growing on the inside of the right-field fence, and the park rule is that if a ball hits any part of a tree, it’s a homer. Melero opened the third with a shot to right that, according to the umpire, hit some leaves on its way to the bottom of the fence. The only other hit allowed by Ippolito was a sixth-inning single.
Jerry Schniepp, Helix coach, said he never worried about starting Ippolito against El Capitan for a third time.
“They knew what to expect, but he’s still getting them out,” he said.