CARLSBAD “Who in the world would have thought Helix High, could go on the road, play in a hostile environment and upset La Costa Canyon?” asked Highlanders coach Cole Holland.
“We did. We really did,” Helix starting pitcher Frankie Nunez said Wednesday after the Highlanders beat LCC 5-4 in the opening-round of the double-elimination San Diego Section Open Division baseball playoffs.
Helix will travel to play No. 2-seeded Granite Hills (23-8) on Friday in the winners bracket. LCC (20-11) will host Torrey Pines (13-18) on Friday in an elimination game.
“LCC is good, don’t get me wrong,” Nunez said. “They were the third seed and we’re No. 6. We knew this would be a tough game. But we also knew we were better than our record (16-14). I think we showed them that we had a little more fight in us than they thought.”
Nunez, who improved to 5-1, fought his way through leg cramps. He was grabbing his toes trying to stretch his calves and hamstrings.
Still, he lasted 6?1/3 innings before yielding to Elijah Varela, who got the last two outs, one on a foul pop, the last on a strikeout with runners on first and second.
“I’ve never had this happen to me before,” Nunez said of the cramps. “I didn’t do anything I don’t normally do. Didn’t eat anything different. It hurt so bad. Honestly, I thought I had pulled something. I tried stretching, drinking water. One of the guys had some coconut water. I drank that and it helped a little.
“Elijah came in and bailed me out in the seventh.”
La Costa Canyon also helped bail out the Highlanders with some funky base running. Anthony Balderas drilled an apparent double into the left-field corner in the fourth inning, but settled for a single.
Shanye Davern followed with a grounder up the middle that would have been an infield hit, but shortstop Zach Muir laid out and got a force at second. Nunez than got the next two hitters.
In the sixth, after LCC had already scored twice and had two runners on with one out, Brandon Miller hit a high fly ball to deep right.
Right fielder Nico Alcoser got turned around, but ended up making a great catch. The runner at second, thinking the ball had fallen in for a hit, was doubled off second to end the threat.
“The wind shifted on me,” Alcoser said. “It had been blowing out to left, then turned and was blowing out to right. I misjudged it a little, but still thought I had a chance to catch it. I was really surprised the runner was doubled off. That was a pretty big play.”
Another big play came in the bottom of the seventh.
Shane Potter led off with a ringing double to left. But he was called out for missing first base. Connor Schenk followed with a single and pinch-hitter Scott Souter was safe on an error. Enter Varela who got the final two outs.
“Helix played really well and we made some really costly baserunning mistakes,” said LCC coach Justin Machado.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot. We have to battle back through the losers bracket. But we’ll keep fighting and see what happens.”