The Blair Oaks Falcons were three outs from finishing off a no-hitter, and they held a five-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Ten minutes later, Helias 2 was a mere base hit away from a walk-off win.
With the bases loaded and one out, Helias' leadoff batter, Nick Jeffries, roped a line drive to the opposite field. However, it was hit right at Blair Oaks first baseman Gavin Wekenborg, who caught the ball and stepped on first base for a game-ending double play of a 6-5 victory in Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.
"We had a couple tough bounces and we had two chances to make a double play where we don't make a play," Blair Oaks coach Mike DeMilia said. "With the winning run at second, there's a lot of pressure, but we made a pitch and caught a little luck there."
Trailing 6-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, Helias had its first seven batters reach base. After a strikeout, Jeffries stepped to the plate and worked the count to 3-1, one ball from tying the game, when he drove the next pitch from Josh Isaacs and lined into the double play.
"He is the guy we want up in that situation, 100 out of 100 times," Helias coach Chris Ebright said of Jeffries. "With one out and just needing the ball in play, but of course, that's baseball. He smoked it right at him. I was getting excited. I was getting ready to wave the guy home from second."
Blair Oaks' starting pitcher Ian Nolph threw six innings of no-hit ball when he was pulled after throwing 94 pitches.
"He's a stud, and he showed it," Ebright said. "He exploited our weaknesses and he kept us off-balance."
Nolph allowed just one run in the first inning on with a hit batsman, a pair of stolen bases and a sacrifice fly. He was in command of the next five innings, finishing the game with 11 strikeouts.
"He was really good tonight," DeMilia said. "He's got good breaking stuff. We talk to him about spotting his fastball and throwing his breaking ball for a strike, and he was able to do that."
Helias put together a scrappy seventh inning at the plate. San Schell broke up the no-hitter with a single to right field, then Carson Hayes and Sam Hentges added RBI singles later in the inning.
"That's how our June has gone," Ebright said. " We're just young and scrappy."
The first six-and-a-half innings of Game 1 belonged to Blair Oaks. The Falcons finished the game with 10 hits and held a 4-1 lead through three innings.
In the first inning, Levi Haney had an RBI double and Caden Garber added an RBI single to put the Falcons on top. Nolph drove in a run with a single in the second and Drew Byrd's groundout scored Hayden Salmons in the third.
"I liked our approach in the first game," DeMilia said. "We got good swings, we were very patient."
In the seventh, Lane Libbert belted an RBI triple to right-center field and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Salmons to extend the Falcons' lead to 6-1.
Salmons and Haney each had a single and a double, while Nolph and Garber each had a pair of singles in the win for the Falcons.
It was also a good outing on the mound for a few Helias pitchers. Nathan Roark, the Game 1 starter, constantly attacked the zone against Blair Oaks, only needing 27 pitches to get through the first 13 batters he faced.
"We have a pretty good defense, and we want our pitchers to learn what they can and can't do," Ebright said. "Roark's listened and I think he's got a lot more left in the tank."
Helias fell behind 5-3 in Game 2, but Sam Schell threw plenty of offspeed pitches to quiet Blair Oaks' bats. He pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth to help Helias rally to a 6-5 victory for a doubleheader split.
"He will be one of our varsity pitchers next year," Ebright said of Schell. "He'll be in the reliever role, and for that reason. He can come in and command two, sometimes three, pitches. Coming from the left-handed side, you don't get that too often."
Nick Heislen went 2-for-2 with a single and a double for Helias, while Will Herebold added a two-run double in the third to put the Crusaders back on top by a run.
Lane Libbert went 2-for-3 with two singles and two RBI for Blair Oaks.
Thursday was the last day of the summer league for the Helias 2 team.
"I learned a lot, and I feel these guys learned a lot too," Ebright said. "Being considered the JV team and playing all these varsity teams, coming out of it 11-5 is pretty good."
Blair Oaks (5-6) still has two weeks remaining in the summer league. The Falcons will play a doubleheader Tuesday at New Bloomfield.
"We want to win, but we want to see the best teams," DeMilia said. "That's what's going to make us better."