Self belief helped Helms dominate

bmccormick@heraldonline.comJune 23, 2013 

Nation Ford's Dalton Helms pitches to a batter during the Falcons game against Cardinal Newman. Helms would get the win and Nation Ford would improve to 2-0 on the season.

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  • More information Player of the Year Dalton Helms, Nation Ford Coach of the Year Mitch Walters, Northwestern First team Dalton Helms, Nation Ford. Helms, a junior, was a High School Sports Report All-State selection and Co-Region 3 Player of the Year. Helms hasn’t lost a regular season decision as a starter the last two regular seasons, and his 0.89 ERA this season was a big reason why. Helms also batted .348 with a homer and 16 RBI. Evan Sisk, Lewisville. Sisk went 7-3 this year as pitcher, striking out 83 batters in 65 innings. A sophomore, he had a1.18 ERA and was the team’s go-to arm during a strong postseason run, earning Class A All-State honors from the High School Sports Report. C.D. Pelham, Lancaster. Pelham, a 6-foot-5 left-handed hurler, struck out nearly half of the 117 batters he faced and was 3-2 with four saves. Pelham, an All-State and South Carolina Select All-Star team selection, will play baseball next season at Spartanburg Methodist. Josh Corley, Nation Ford. Corley was another key cog for the deep and talented Nation Ford pitching rotation. The senior was 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA, and four saves. He’s signed with Erskine and will play on the South Carolina Select team against North Carolina in July. Dupree Hart, Northwestern. High School Sports Report All-State and Co-Region 3 Player of the Year. A sophomore, Hart swallowed up almost everything hit his way at shortstop, and was the Trojans’ sparkplug from the leadoff spot, with a .506 average and 36 runs score. Cameron Norwood, Northwester. Norwood was another strong Player of the Year contender, and a High School Sports Report All-State and North-South game selection. The senior pitcher 9-0 during the regular season with a 2.29 ERA. Josh Crump, Northwestern. The All-Region 3 junior led the Trojans with 34 RBI and batted .405. Crump is committed to Coastal Carolina. K.J. Woods, Fort Mill. Woods hit six homers and knocked in 18 runs while batting .347. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound slugger was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the fourth round of the Major League draft. Justin Widener, Chester. Widener, a senior infielder, hit .406 with 11 RBI. He had three errors on the season, earning Class AAA All-State honors. Second team Jake Rentz, Northwestern Colin Quinn, Fort Mill Troy Rawls, South Pointe Josh Massey, South Pointe Corey Parham, Clover Chase Watts, Rock Hill Zach Carter, Rock Hill Christian Cok, Lewisville Ryan Gilbert, York Brett Netzer, Fort Mill Jaden Savage, Fort Mill Jake Wright, Chester David Wright, Chester Honorable mention Mike Webb, Indian Land Chris Cantrell, Indian Land Josh Alley, Chester Trent Autry, Chester Chase Goldberg, Clover Obi Sarduy, Lewisville Jonathan Smith, Northwestern Heath Sumwalt, Northwestern Ian Hinson, South Pointe Colby Robbins, South Pointe Brandon Fite, Nation Ford Sam Holtel, Westminster Catawba Matt Moss, York

Trust your stuff.

It’s good advice for young pitchers with a solid defense behind them, and it’s the mantra that helped Nation Ford’s Dalton Helms earn 2013 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year honors.

“Throughout the year he was our dominant pitcher, no doubt our No. 1,” said Nation Ford head baseball coach Michael Matkovich. “Besides pitching, he was our No. 2 hitter. He basically does it all.”

Helms batted .348 with a home run and 16 RBI, but it was as a starting pitcher where he was stiflingly good for the Falcons. The junior went 8-1 with a 0.89 earned run average, throwing three two-hitters, a one-hitter and a no-hitter. Over the last two regular season Helms is 14-0.

“I trust my stuff and I trust my defense,” Helms said. “And they made plays all year.”

Helms, who has a 4.4 grade point average, was smart enough to avoid trying to do too much. That restraint, and his teammates, helped him dominate area hitters.

“It’s an honor just because of the people we play with in our region,” said Helms. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my defense and my catcher, Justin Johnson, who played there all year. I could trust what I was going to throw knowing the ball wasn’t going to get past him.”

Helms struck out 35 batters in 47.1 innings, relying on a cutter to make batters whiff, but more importantly, a devastating curveball to get them to put the ball on the ground in the infield.

“He’s not a strikeout pitcher,” said Matkovich. “Our defense was pretty good so he was confident that when he threw the ball over the plate that our guys would make a play on it. He doesn’t go up there thinking he’s going to overpower anybody. His walks were limited and he doesn’t make many mistakes. That’s why he’s so successful.”

No outing was more demonstrative of Helms’ control than the combined no-hitter he threw with Josh Corley in a 9-0 victory over York on April 12. Cougars coach Scot Kiggans was most impressed by “his command of the zone. He was able to hit every spot, at least when we played him he was. He hit his spots with every pitch he had.”

The Falcons were blessed with a college-looking pitching staff. Thanks to that depth, Matkovich gave Helms a day or two advance notice before starts. That allowed Helms to mentally zeroed in ahead of his appearance, which led to sharp starts. One of the common threads in his two-hit or better performances was a spotless first couple innings.

“I felt like if I got through the lineup one time, knowing what people were gonna do and how they reacted to different pitches I throw, the snowball effect just kind of helped me get through,” said Helms.

Helms also played at the corners of the infield and in the outfield. Despite his diamond versatility, he is getting more recruiting interest – Duke, Richmond, Charlotte, Furman – in football. He earned All-Region honors as the Falcons’ quarterback last season.

“If it doesn’t work out for football, I would definitely try and go play somewhere for baseball,” Helms said. “I like sports; I can’t sit still and like to be in something.”

Matkovich coaches Helms in both sports as he is an assistant coach for Nation Ford’s football team. For Matkovich, the best part about Helms is that he’s in 11th grade.

“That’s why I’m still smiling right now,” said the coach, laughing.

Bret McCormick •  329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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