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Homers lift Ole Brook; LCHS captures opener

Nick Helmstetter of Brookhaven was locked in a pitching duelwith Nathan Case of Lawrence County Friday night on Moyer Field.Helmstetter helped his cause with a first-inning, 2-run homer,sparking the Panthers to a 5-3 win over the Cougars fromMonticello.

An estimated crowd of 300 watched the firepower. The Panthers(8-5, 7-2) also got a sixth-inning, 3-run homer from third basemanCody Ratcliff, giving them a 2-1 advantage in the Division 6-4Aseries this week. For Helmstetter and Ratcliff, the long homerswere their third of the year.

“I felt like we needed to do something to pad our lead,” saidRatcliff, a muscular senior. “I wasn’t looking for a home run butit happened. It was a must-win game for us.”

On a warm, spring-like night, Lawrence County (8-5, 7-2) had wonFriday’s opener 9-5, avenging a 10-5, last-inning Tuesday nightloss to BHS at Monticello. The long ball was decisive.

“I knew from the start that I didn’t have my fastball working,”Helmstetter admitted. “My breaking ball was working good and ourcatcher (Nick Peavey) was a wall back there,” handling wildpitches.

Helmstetter (3-1) struck out 6 batters, walked 3 and allowed 5hits. He was replaced by Brandon Foster after giving up a 2-rundouble to Case in the top of the seventh. It was the onlyextra-base hit for LCHS and Case wound up on third base after athrowing error. The Cougars scored their third run on a fieldingerror.

“This was a big win for us,” said Ole Brook coach Randy Spring.”That was probably the best Nick has thrown. We left him in thereprobably one batter (Case) too long.”

Spring said the home runs by Helmstetter and Ratcliff wereimpressive. “We have a big ballpark and not many balls make it outof here. Nick’s homer probably went 355 (feet). Cody’s was385.”

Case, a senior right-hander with a big breaking curve, onlyallowed 3 hits. He walked 2 and fanned 6.

“Nathan only gave up three hits but two of them went 900 feet,”said LCHS coach Cory Keyes.

Keyes said the two rivals have split the last 12 games betweenthem. “It’s typical how every game goes.”

In the seventh, Conner Oakes reached on a bad-hop single. WillieBuckley drew a walk and Case followed with a 2-RBI double to theleft field fence.

Foster, a southpaw, got the next 2 batters on a fly ball and apopup. Ford Johnson was safe on an error before Foster fanned ScottVotaw to preserve the win.

In the first, Bud Britt drew a 2-out walk, setting the stage forHelmstetter’s blast, giving Brook a 2-0 lead.

In the sixth, Paxton King reached on an error and Britt receivedan intentional walk. Ratcliff’s 3-run blast cleared the left-centerfield fence.

Lawrence Co. 9, Brookhaven 5

In the opener, LCHS built a 6-1 lead in the fifth. BrandonMiddlebrook’s long, 2-run double to the base of the left fieldfence gave the Cougars a 5-run advantage.

Keyes used 4 pitchers in notching the win.

“We had to use a lot of arms but they did a good job,” saidKeyes. “It was a good team effort.”

Starting hurler Conner Oakes got the win and was replaced byCase in the fifth. Tyler Reeves followed in the fifth and Votawarrived in the seventh to secure the save.

King, Britt and second baseman Chris Dixon had 2 hits for thePanthers.

The Cougars plated 3 runs on 2 hits in the seventh. Anopposite-field single by Oakes scored 2 runs. Buckley slapped anRBI single and it was 9-4.

Case went 3-for-3 and Votaw 3-for-4 as Britt gave up 10 hits inthe loss.