LIMA — Crestview had control of its own destiny.
Coming into Thursday’s Northwest Conference baseball matchup at Lima Central Catholic, the Knights — who were 8-0 in the NWC — needed a win against the Thunderbirds to garner an outright conference title.
Crestview got a complete-game pitching effort from junior left-hander Damian Helm and was able to muster just enough hitting from its lineup to come away with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over LCC at Players Field.
Crestview is 13-5 overall and finishes the conference schedule 9-0.
Helm scattered five base hits, while striking out eight batters. Helm did not issue a walk in his seven innings of work.
LCC (14-10, 6-3) used three pitchers against Crestview. Colin Stolly, who was coming back from an injury, started on the mound for the T-Birds.
Stolly, a junior right-hander, worked the first two innings before giving way to Jamaal Hairston in the third. Stolly gave up one hit and struck out one.
Hairston worked 3 1/3 innings in relief. The junior right-hander gave up a run on four hits and struck out one.
Sam Huffman came in from his centerfield position to pitch in the sixth. Huffman, a senior, closed the game out for the T-Birds.
Against LCC, Helm had three innings in which he retired the side in order, including the sixth when he struck out all three batters.
“That’s always a goal of ours (to win the NWC),” longtime Crestview coach Jim Wharton said. “This team was very resilient, especially the last 10 days. …We’ve played eight games in 10 days and we’ve played five league games within that stretch.
“We have to tip our hats to LCC. They are out of the league race and they still gave us a battle. …That’s just the character of this league.”
Crestview had several opportunities to break the game open. The Knights left six base runners stranded.
“LCC made five or six great plays,” Wharton said. “We hit some balls square on it and they made the plays.
“But, we can’t say enough about ‘Damo’. Damian Helm is a special kid. He continues to get better and he had a very good outing tonight.”
Crestview’s run came in the sixth. Bryce Richardson had an RBI single that drove in Isaiah Simerman, who got on with a single to start the inning.
Jake Harmon led Crestview at the plate, going 2-for-3. Nathan Owens had the only extra-base hit for the Knights, a lead-off double in the seventh.
LCC’s Drew Jennings led everyone at the plate, going a perfect 3-for-3. Nick Watkins had the only extra-base hit for the T-Birds, a double in the first.
“We knew Damian Helm was as good a pitcher as anyone in the area,” LCC coach John Schnieders said. “We looked at this like a tournament game because we knew they had everything to play for.
“We challenged our guys and said, ‘Hey look, we might not be able to throw our best pitcher because we have a tournament game on Saturday (against Bluffton), but we can go out, grind and play tournament-style baseball.’ I think, defensively, we made some outstanding plays. We got great pitching performances from our committee of Stolly, Hairston and Huffman.”
Helm was pleased to get out with the victory and the NWC crown.
“It means a lot. There are a lot of good teams out there in our conference. It was great to get that win. …It was one of our goals coming into this season. It just feels good to get it done,” he said.
Wharton added, “We knew, coming over here that it was going to be a dog-fight. I’m just proud of the resiliency of our kids. They did a nice job.”