COLUMBUS — It’s been a pretty successful formula over the years.
Strong pitching with a solid defense can go a long way over the course of a season.
For Crestview, it’s helped take the Knights all the way to the Division IV state tournament.
Crestview (19-7) will meet Newark Catholic (22-9) in the Division IV baseball state semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park.
In the other semifinals, New Middletown Springfield (20-7) will play Tinora (19-7) at 1 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Knights are making their second trip to the state baseball tournament. They reached the state semifinals in 1993.
“That was a great group of kids and we’re taking another great group of kids down there,” Crestview coach Jim Wharton said.
The Knights’ roll out a team ERA of 1.03. Leading the way is 6-foot-4 junior left-hander Damian Helm, who is 9-0 with two saves and a 0.74 ERA. In 56 2/3 innings, he has 77 strikeouts and only six walks.
“He throws real hard, he has a great curveball and he has great command,” Crestview sophomore catcher Nathan Owens said. “He’s got a tough heart.”
Helm won the regional semifinal game against Tri-County North 3-2. Helm went seven innings and gave up two runs on six hits. He struck out five.
Picking up the 4-1 win in the regional finals over Russia was senior Venice Roberts. He came on in relief and fired 3 2/3 innings of shutout, one-hit ball. He struck out six and walked one. Roberts continually sliced the strike zone with his breaking ball and fastball.
On the year, Roberts is 2-3 with a 0.42 ERA.
“When he has confidence in that pitch, that pitch is awful good for a high school kid,” Wharton said. “It’s very tough for a high school kid to hit that pitch. He came with some confidence. … The reason our pitching staff does such a good job is that they really trust their defense.”
The regional finals starter Bryce Richardson is 5-0 with a 1.96.
Others in the mix, who have thrown at least 25 innings, are Isaiah Simerman (1-1, 1.68) and Nick Thomas (2-2, 1.06).
The fielding has been solid with a fielding percentage of .942.
The Knights’ batting average is .321. Leading the way is first baseman Jake Harmon, who is hitting .453 with four triples and 12 RBIs.
Helm, who plays left field when he doesn’t pitch, is hitting .378 with nine RBIs.
Richardson is hitting .351 with 16 RBIs. Third baseman Isaiah Simerman is hitting .300 with nine doubles and 25 RBIs. Simerman’s RBI double to left gave the Knights the lead to stay 2-1 in the win over Russia.
Roberts is batting .324.
Shortstop/center fielder Cam Etzler, who was named for Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, is batting .293 with five doubles and 16 stolen bases.
This marks Newark Catholic’s 13th appearance at the state tournament, with the last one coming in 2011. Newark Catholic has won six state titles (2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1989, 1988).
It reached the state semifinals in 2011 and was the state runner-up in 2010.
Newark Catholic coach John Cannizzaro is making his 10th state appearance and has won four state titles.
Newark Catholic defeated New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic 10-0 in six innings in the regional finals.
Mitch Cox, the staff’s ace, fired a one-hitter with seven strikeouts and three walks. The senior has committed to Ashland.
It was Newark Catholic’s sixth straight run-rule victory in the tourney. Newark Catholic has outscored their opponents 99-6 in the state tournament.
Newark Catholic senior James Thomas posted the 12-2 win over Racine Southern in the regional semifinals. Thomas, a junior shortstop/pitcher has committed to Walsh.
Mike Lohr is a junior third baseman/catcher, who leads off.
The No. 3 hitter in the lineup is center fielder Hunter Nance. He produced a two-run triple in the regional semifinals.
The cleanup hitter is first baseman Chayce Crouch, who has committed to play quarterback at Illinois.