EL CAJON — Fred Helm, Granite Hills High School pitcher, wasn't feeling too well the night before his starting assignment against No. 4-ranked Valhalla Wednesday afternoon.
"I got sick last night," Helm said. "I thought, 'Oh wow, great timing.' I felt real weak and queasy."
But after the game, the Norsemen were the ones with that sickening feeling. Helm pitched a four-hit shutout and struck out 10 as the No. 2-ranked Eagles defeated Valhalla, 5-0, in a Grossmont League game at Valhalla.
The victory, which improved Helm's record to 8-2, gives Granite Hills (9-1, 17-3) a 1 1/2 game lead over second-place Valhalla (7-2, 15-3). A Norsemen win would have put them in first place by a half-game.
Helm, who allowed four singles, got into trouble in the seventh with the Eagles leading 5-0.
Sam Gammo led off the inning with a single, and Tony Lozinski followed with a bloop hit to right-center field. Helm then hurt his shoulder when pitching to the following hitter, Rob Sharp. For a while, it looked as if he'd be unable to continue.
"My shoulder didn't pop," Helm said. "I felt it start to hurt, and it got worse and worse and reached a peak."
Gordon Thompson, Granite Hills coach, went to the mound to check on his pitcher. Helm threw a couple of warm-up tosses, and elected to stay in the game. He recovered sufficiently to retire Sharp on a fly to left and got Ed Schleiser to ground into a game-ending double play.
"The pain was still there, (when pitching to Sharp and Schleiser)," Helm said. 'I said to the coach, 'If it gets any worse, I'll tell you. I would have come out if not for that double play."
The ground ball capped a fine pitching performance.
"It was a superb effort," Thompson said. "Fred was getting 3-2 counts early, and I thought if that continued, it would take its toll. Fred kept them off stride. He mixed his pitches well--it was probably his best effort of the year."
Valhalla starter Mark Warren (8-1), who came into the game undefeated and with a 2.57 ERA, also pitched well. But the Eagles got three runs in the second inning, which turned out to be all they really needed.
Third baseman Lance Allister led off with a double to left, then Tim Harris was hit by a pitch. After Curt Southworth sacrificed the runners to third and second, Donnie Carroll hit a fly ball to left-center that Norsemen center fielder Joe Appolito overran. The result was a two-run double. Warren walked Frank Carey, Steve Skinner and Damon Hansel in succession, making it 3-0, Granite Hills.
Southworth's sixth-inning sacrifice fly put the Eagles ahead, 4-0. Allister hit a run-scoring double against Valhalla reliever Roy Neder in the seventh for the Eagles' fifth run.