ASHLAND, Mo. — Playing in a baseball district title game isn't unfamiliar territory for the Helias Crusaders.
But that didn't mean there wasn't a case of the nerves heading into Tuesday afternoon's Class 4 District 9 title game against the Boonville Pirates.
"You never know when it could be your last game," Helias senior Zach Davidson said. "That can always make you nervous."
It wasn't Helias' last game. Davidson made sure of that, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Crusaders claimed their fourth consecutive district championship with a 6-0 victory against the Pirates.
"He pitched great, there's not much more you can say," Helias coach Chris Wyrick said. "To give up one hit in this situation, he just did great. He was dominant."
It's the fourth consecutive district title for the second-ranked Crusaders (21-4), who will host the Marshfield Bluejays (15-6) in the sectionals next Tuesday at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex. Marshfield won the District 10 title Tuesday with a 10-0 win against Salem.
"This is just another step in what we're trying to accomplish," Wyrick said. "We know Marshfield is a quality team and we're going to have to be ready to play."
Perhaps because of nerves, Davidson struggled with a 22-pitch first inning Tuesday.
"I was concerned he might be out early because of so many pitches," Wyrick said. "But then he got back on track."
The senior lefty only needed 22 pitches to get through the next two innings and the game was scoreless going into the bottom of the third.
Boonville starter Reece Lang retired the Crusaders in order in the first two innings. Zach Wolken started the bottom of the third with a long fly to center that carried past the outfielders for a double.
The Crusader sophomore advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw. Alex Loethen, another sophomore, then laid down a bunt to plate Wolken to give Helias a 1-0 lead.
"We got the bunt down, it was a bang-bang play," Wyrick said.
Wyrick was happy to see his underclassmen come through at crunch time.
"Our younger guys are getting some good experience," he said.
Helias doubled its lead just two pitches into the fourth when Trevor Austin belted a 1-0 offering over the fence in left-center.
"He threw me all fastballs, I like that," Austin said.
It was the second home run in as many days for Helias' junior shortstop, who appears to be locked in at the plate at the start of the postseason.
"I haven't been swinging very well lately, my hits have been singles," Austin said. "Coach wanted me to hit some hard, square some up.
"It's been working out."
One out later, Davidson drew a walk. Courtesy runner Jason Binkley moved to second on a balk. After popout to second, Wolken singled to left on a 3-2 pitch to score Binkley.
"That was huge, that was a quality at-bat," Wyrick said. "That gave us a little bit of a cushion."
Davidson struck out the side in the top of the fifth before the Crusaders put the game away in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs, Zach Paschal belted a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left-center to make it 4-0. Austin followed with a single before Jacob Weaver homered to left to make it 6-0.
"I have no idea the last time we hit three home runs in a game," Wyrick said. "We just put some good swings together and let it go."
At that point, Helias' focus was on whether Davidson could finish the no-hitter. He retired the Pirates in order in the sixth, then got the first out of the seventh on a strikeout.
After a walk, Davidson picked up strikeout No. 12 for the second out before pinch-hitter Trae Williams lined a clean single to left.
It was Davidson's 105th and final pitch.
"Winning was more important, but the no-hitter would have been pretty cool," Davidson, the only pitcher in program history with two no-hitters, said.
Davidson walked four Pirates. Wyrick has said when Davidson throws strikes, he's tough to hit.
"It's his motion, it's his movement, it's everything he does throwing the baseball," he said.
Kaleb Haley came on to record the final out of Helias' 10th shutout of the season.
"It was a total team effort today," Wyrick said.
The start time for the sectional game has not been announced.