The first four innings passed without a run scored by either district powerhouse.
Then Helias imploded and Hickman powered ahead to a 7-1 home win.
After handling Hickman’s potent offense for four innings, Helias pitcher Jason Lansford made a fatal mistake in the fifth.
He gave the Kewpies (7-0) a free run.
With two outs, second baseman Chad Hatcher reached on an infield single. Lansford then threw three wild pitches to center fielder Blake Tekotte, allowing Hatcher to score the game’s first run.
“I think he got a little flustered once he threw that wild pitch, and the guy scored a run,” Helias coach Chris Wyrick said. “A senior in high school, he’s been around long enough to understand that you have to put that behind you and get the very next hitter, and he didn’t do that. He let that bother him for the next couple hitters and that cost us the game.”
Hickman coach Dave Wilson said: “I think the wild pitch, getting that first run across the board, pretty instinctive running by Chad Hatcher out there. I thought that’s kind of what got us going.”
Lansford, who allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, picked up his first loss of the season.
Wilson said he wasn’t surprised Helias (5-1) stuck with Lansford through the adversity.
“He’s been a tough kid and been able to pitch out of games in the past,” he said.
Hickman starting pitcher Stephen Boyer (2-0) resolved early control problems and battled through pressure situations, leaving Helias runners stranded at third base four times.
“I was a little fired up (at the start), and I rushed some things from time to time, but I started to slow down there in the fifth inning,” Boyer said. “I just had to go out and keep my mechanics in place and do the job.”
Boyer allowed three hits in six scoreless innings, and Helias left 10 runners on base for the game.
“(Boyer) did a good job of keeping us off-balance, throwing his changeup for strikes,” Wyrick said. “I think we are so nervous when we get to the plate with runners on base, they don’t realize that with runners in scoring position the pitcher’s the one who’s in trouble, not you. Loosen up and hit the baseball.”
The Crusaders had a chance to take the first lead in the fifth inning, but first baseman Cory Buersmeyer grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
“I think the double play we turned in the fifth inning really sparked our team, we all fed off that and just started hitting the ball,” Boyer said.
While the Kewpies registered an early blow in the fight for the top district seed, the Crusaders played flat against their first district opponent.
“You would think there would be a little more urgency,” Wyrick said. “That was a big win for (the Kewpies). Hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.”
Helias should get its shot. With both teams playing well at the season’s outset, a rematch in the district tournament seems probable.