It starts with the starters. And the starters were outstanding.
Three Helias starting pitchers - Trevor Schnieders, Matt Rehagen and Cole Distler - worked a combined 20 innings for the Crusaders in the Capital City Invitational. And the trio allowed a combined two earned runs.
"That can make a team look very good," Helias coach Chris Wyrick said Saturday afternoon after the Crusaders claimed the Invitational title with a 4-2 victory against the Hickman Kewpies at Vivion Field.
Distler didn't allow an earned run in going the distance, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out four.
"Cole was as strong in the seventh as he was in the first," Wyrick said.
In the space of 24 hours, Helias defeated Blue Springs, Rockhurst and Hickman to win the Invitational for the first time in three trips to the title game.
"Anytime you're in a tournament, you want to win it." Wyrick said. "To finally break through, makes you feel good."
Distler, who is one of Helias' top starters along with Schnieders, was pitching on a full four days of rest. There was no chance he was going to throw in Friday night's semifinal.
"With his elbow problems last year, we weren't going to have Cole pitch unless he got a full four days off," Wyrick said.
Distler was in control from the beginning Saturday, seemingly throwing any pitch he wanted for a strike.
"Cole made some huge pitches throughout this game," Wyrick said. "And he did it against a very good hitting team."
Helias jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, Schnieders reached second on a two-out error and scored on a Joe Reinkemeyer single.
Hickman came back with two runs in the second, helped by a pair of Helias errors. The Crusaders finished with five errors in the game.
"This wasn't our best defensive effort, but those same guys came back and made plays," Wyrick said. "You have to put things behind you and we did. That's a sign of maturity."
It was the first time Helias had trailed in the Invitational.
The Crusaders won it with three runs in the fourth. Schnieders reached on an error to start the inning and moved to second on a passed ball. Reinkemeyer was hit by a pitch and Alex Barton reached on an infield single to load the bases.
Hickman got a force out at the plate to send Jordan Backes to the plate, who drove home a run on a fielder's choice to tie it. Brock Gerstner then hit a slow chopper to second and the Kewpie defender threw it wildly past first as Hayden Lee and Backes scampered home to make it 4-2.
Helias won despite getting just two hits.
"We found a way to win and we are a good enough team to take advantage when the other team makes mistakes," Wyrick said.
And after Helias' second win against Hickman in four days, Wyrick hopes he's seen the last of the Kewpies (7-3) this season.
"That is a very dangerous team," he said.
Helias (7-2), winners of seven straight games, is back in action Tuesday against Moberly at the American Legion Sports Complex. The varsity game will start at 5 p.m.