FORT MILL — Usually having one or two good arms can get you through a high school baseball season, but the Nation Ford Falcons are stacked with a six pack.
With six pitchers combining to lead the team to an 18-5 record overall and a 10-3 Region III-AAAA record, the Falcons are contending to make a long run in the playoffs that start this week.
“If our pitching keeps us in games, than I am confident we can win,” said Nation Ford head coach Mike Matkovich, who is in his first year at the helm.
The team has an incredibly low 1.44 ERA, with the highest ERA on the team being senior Tyler Borland’s 3.14. Borland recently signed to pitch at Erskine College. Nation Ford also relies on Cole Avery, who is 4-1 with 28 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA; Chris Cash, who is 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 26 strikeouts; senior Josh Corley, who is 3-1 with 29 strikeouts and also serves as a closer for the team; and Mike Regan, who has a 0.78 ERA in just a handful of games pitched.
Like every pitching staff, there is one player considered the ace. For this one, it’s no surprise that the school’s starting quarterback is also its ace pitcher, junior Dalton Helms.
Helms is a perfect 7-0 on the season and leads the state in ERA with a 0.00, according to Diamond Prospects. Helms has given up just four runs in 39 innings pitched. He has allowed only 15 hits during that time and struck out 27 batters. In fact, Helms hasn’t lost a regular season game in two years and is 14-0 during that time.
However, he isn’t taking all the credit for all his success.
“I have been able to trust my defense this year,” he said. “My defense has made plays.”
Corley, who leads the state in saves with four, according to Diamond Prospects, also credits the defense.
“When I throw something, I am not afraid to have them hit it, because I know the guys behind me will get it,” Corley said. “When you don’t allow runs it’s easier to win.”
For Helms, it also helps that he is pretty close to the team’s pitching coach – his father, Jeff Helms, who is also Town of Fort Mill Police Chief.
“It’s nice to be able to come off the field and know what is working and what isn’t,” Dalton said. “I trust him and he trust me to throw the pitches he calls.”
Helms also said that with having so many different arms to rely on, he knows exactly when he is pitching and when he isn’t.
“We have a better rotation this year, so I know when I am pitching and so I can prepare mentally,” he said.
Helms has given up just six hits in five Region games this year, and he and Corley combined to throw a no-hitter earlier this month against York. He has also thrown three one-hitters as well this season.
Matkovich also credits the overall attitude of the team this season to help with how well they are doing.
“The kids are focused,” he said. “They are loose. The stress factor isn’t there. We are like one big happy family. We haven’t had a meltdown this season and they are having fun.”