Helix High junior Thomas Caneday delivered the best performance of his life in the biggest game of his young pitching career.
With the fourth-ranked Highlanders facing elimination from the 2019 San Diego CIF Open Division playoffs, Caneday pitched a no-hitter to eliminate 10th-ranked La Costa Canyon, 3-0, to stay alive in the section’s elite championship bracket.
It was reportedly the first postseason no-hitter by a Grossmont Conference pitcher in 24 years.
“Having a great defense really helps,” Caneday said. “I was able to locate my pitches well, especially my changeup. LCC is a top team so we really had to stay focused.”
Senior Justin Cervantes and SDSU-bound junior Alonzo Richardson both drove in a run in the second inning, and Noah Lane added an RBI in the third for Helix (20-12).
Caneday, who has committed to the University of Nevada, struck out six and walked one. He is 7-1 this season with a 1.82 ERA in a rotation that features four NCAA D1 commits, including Richardson, LSU-bound junior Jordan Thompson and senior Chris Paruleski, who’s headed for Cal State Northridge.
The Highlanders’ offense this season has been powered by senior Carlos Oquita, who has seven home runs. Helix was scheduled to host third-seeded Poway on Tuesday but will need to beat the Titans twice during the week in order to advance to Saturday’s Open Division championship game at SDSU’s Tony Gwynn at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, two-time defending Division I champion Grossmont met conference rival Granite Hills earlier this week for a berth in Friday night’s section championship game at Gwynn Stadium at 7 p.m.
It has been a strong postseason for the East County stalwarts, neither of which entered the postseason ranked in the top 15 in the county medial poll.
Despite the experts’ oversight, the top-seeded Foothillers (16-13) have the upper-hand for the title-game berth, needing just one win over the Eagles (14-14).
Grossmont won both of its playoff contests in walk-off fashion.
Junior Anthony Mata singled home the game-winner in the Hillers’ 6-5 win over La Jolla Country Day last Wednesday. Two days later, junior Brodie Romero drew a bases-loaded walk in a 3-2 win over St. Augustine.
Despite missing several key contests that potentially cost Grossmont a chance to compete for a share of the Grossmont Hills League title, which was eventually won by Helix, University of San Diego-bound senior Jack Hyde has returned from a non-throwing arm injury just in time for the playoffs.
Granite Hills sophomore Noa Ponciano and junior Eric Hogan combined on a 1-0 shutout of St. Augustine on Saturday in an elimination game.
Junior Dillon Goins hit a sixth-inning double to score junior Clay Fordham for the only marker.
The biggest surprise of the playoffs has been the historic run of the Mount Miguel Matadors.
The sixth-seeded Matadors, under head coach Frank Coit, have recorded an unprecedented three consecutive shutouts in the Division V playoffs.
Still, the toughest road was ahead, as Mount Miguel still had to win at least one more game at Orange Glen to secure the title game berth on Saturday at noon at Poway High. Senior Cameron Beauzec pitched a two-hit shutout and drove in a run with a double in the top of the first inning to lead the Matadors past the Patriots, 2-0, last Friday.
Sophomore Thomas Ringer pitched a shutout of his own, striking out 10 in an 11-0 win over High Tech Chula Vista last Wednesday.
Grossmont Hills League champion Valhalla (22-8) remained alive in the Division III playoffs following a 3-2 win over University City on Tuesday.
The 13th-ranked Norsemen needed consecutive wins this week at Mira Mesa at qualify for the championship game at SDSU at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Marauders shut out Valhalla, 4-0, last Friday. Senior Riley O’Sullivan pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts in Valhalla’s playoff-opening win over Olympian.
O’Sullivan and junior Joseph Ingrassia, who in April became the first East County pitcher with two no-hitters in a season in 34 years, have combined for 12 victories this season.
The West Hills Wolf Pack have also been a terrific postseason story, winning a pair of games to remain alive in the Division IV playoffs. Senior Gavin Kondyra pitched a three-hitter as the tenth-seeded Pack won at Sweetwater, 10-1, on Saturday. Junior Joseph Thrailkill had four hits and drove in a pair of runs. The Wolf Pack opened the postseason with an 11-1 win at Tri-City Christian behind three hits and two RBI by junior Kole Klingerman.
West Hills (14-15) needed consecutive wins at Mt. Carmel this week in order to make Saturday’s championship game at Poway High at 3:30. The Sundevils handed the Pack a 5-0 playoff loss last Friday.