CONVOY — Damian Helm grew up around sports.
So did most of his relatives.
One of his cousins is Jordan Thompson, who played tight end at Ohio University after being a standout at football, basketball and baseball at Parkway.
Helm is also related to Crestview grad Jackie Motycka, who went on to score 2,122 points at Bowling Green State University (class of 1989) and is a member of the BG Hall of Fame.
“It’s great having cousins like that and having them support me,” Helm said. “My family is from around here and everyone is close. My grandma was a Motycka. Growing up, I’d go over to my grandpa’s and we always had a ball, either a baseball or a basketball. We were either shooting or throwing.”
Helm, the Knights’ No. 1 pitcher, is one of the main reasons Crestview is heading to state.
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.
It marks the second trip to state for the Knights. They lost in the state semifinals in 1993.
“This is definitely one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in a while,” Helm said after his Knights knocked off Russia 4-1 to win the regional championship game at Wittenberg late Friday night. “We made to state in junior ACME a couple of summers ago, but this is better because it counts for a little bit more. It’s great to share it with all my teammates.”
Helm was named first team all-state and was the Northwest Conference’s co-player of the year.
Helm, a 6-foot-4 junior left-hander, was dominant on the mound this year. He stands 9-0 with a 0.74 ERA and two saves. In 56 2/3 innings, he’s given up 34 hits. He has 77 strikeouts and only six walks.
Helm mixes in a fastball that scoots around 82-83 mph, along with a breaking ball he can throw consistently for strikes. He’s also mixing in a change-up.
“I try to attack people,” Helm said. “I try to get ahead in the count all the time. It’s so much easier working ahead when you’re ahead all the time. Then you can throw your offspeed whenever you want. When you’re ahead, you’re in command that’s what I keep in my head when I’m on the mound.”
Helm said he never thought about winning the NWC award before it happened.
“I didn’t have that as a goal going in, but I just wanted each outing to be a good outing,” Helm said. “I couldn’t have done anything without my teammates and they deserve the award as much as I do.”
In the field, Helm plays left field and batted .378 with four doubles and three triples. He had nine RBIs.
“Damian is as good as a young man as he is as a player,” Crestview coach Jim Wharton said. “He’s as humble and genuine of a kid that you could possibly have on your team.
“From a pitching standpoint, he just knows how to attack hitters. He doesn’t throw it in the same spot two times in a row. He changes locations, he changes speeds and has done a stellar job for us. He’s a special young man and a special pitcher.”
Helm said the key was knocking off Lima Central Catholic and winning the Northwest Conference this year.
“After winning conference, we knew what we could do,” he said. “Then we went over to the district (with wins over Minster and St. Henry), and played solid both games. … Coach (Wharton) told us we could do it and we finally started to believe it after those the Minster and St. Henry wins.”
Helm also plays basketball and said he likes both sports, depending on which is in season.
“If it’s basketball season, I like playing basketball,” he said. “If it’s baseball season, I like throwing the old baseball around.”
And while he followed Thompson’s career over the years, now he’ll have the family following him at Huntington Park this weekend.
“I’ve never been there, but I’m excited to go down there with all my teammates,” Helm said. “It’ll be an experience I’ll never forget the rest of my life.”