Helias slams its way to crown

Paige Bange showed exactly why she’s the Helias Lady Crusaders’ leadoff hitter.

With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh inning and the game against St. Joseph’s Academy tied at 1, the Lady Crusaders were looking for anything to help them win the title of the Helias Catholic Classic.

Bange gave them everything.

The freshman stepped to the plate and quickly got a 3-0 count. Angels left-hander Michelle Marchlony countered with two strikes to get the Lady Crusaders down to their last strike of the inning.

It didn’t faze Bange. She fouled off three straight pitches before connecting on the fourth and sending it over the center-field wall for a grand slam, helping Helias to a 6-1 win Saturday at Duensing Field.

“She fouled off three really good pitches that were too close to take,” Helias coach Dan Campbell said. “Then she got one that she could handle and she took care of it.”

That swing sealed the title for the Lady Crusaders, who swept through the tournament with shutout wins over Nerinx Hall (9-0) and Notre Dame de Sion (11-0) earlier in the day.

Taylor Pritchett picked up the win against St. Joseph’s Academy (15-7). She also lent a hand on offense, putting Helias on top 1-0 in the fourth inning with a solo homer to left.

The right-hander was perfect through three innings. She gave up the Angels’ lone run in the bottom of the fourth when Lauren Branch belted a solo home run to tie the game.

The fourth inning was the only blemish in Pritchett’s outing, as she allowed one run on two hits. She walked one and struck out nine.

“Taylor had a good game pitching,” Campbell said.

The three wins came at the best time for the Lady Crusaders, who were coming off two straight losses to Rock Bridge (3-2) and Kirksville (10-9).

“We had a little rough start to the week,” Campbell said. “We just didn’t make some plays we should have made. It was good to get back and play a couple of games.”

It also give Helias a bit of momentum as the Lady Crusaders prepare for the Class 4 District 9 Tournament. Helias, the No. 2 seed, will take on Camdenton or Sedalia Smith-Cotton at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It was good to see our big guns coming through before districts,” Campbell said of his team, which drove in 26 runs in Saturday’s tournament.

Helias (18-3) opened the tournament with a 9-0 win over Nerinx Hall. Pritchett tossed a four-hitter and struck out 11 for the win.

Shelby LeCuru and Arielle Chambers had two hits. Hillary Hentges had two hits, including a solo home run.

In the second game, the Lady Crusaders cruised to an 11-0 win over Notre Dame de Sion. Paxton Welch threw a four-hitter.

Chambers had three hits, while LeCuru chipped in with two hits. Nicole Buschjost drove in three runs.

The winner of Thursday’s district semifinal game will face Rock Bridge, Jefferson City or Hickman for the title at 6 p.m. Friday.

“It will be a tough district,” Campbell said. “But I think we’re ready for it and we’ll see what happens.”

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