LOVES PARK -- Grant will remember for a long time how the Helmich maneuver vaulted its baseball program into statewide prominence.
Senior pitcher Jared Helmich was pitching on two days rest but showed no signs of fatigue in Monday night's Class 4A Rockford supersectional at RiverHawks Stadium. Helmich fired a complete-game 2-hitter as a Grant program which had never won a sectional will now bring a state trophy back to Fox Lake after a 7-0 victory over Schaumburg.
"It feels awesome," said Grant first baseman and cleanup man Brent Spohr, who went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI to lead an 11-hit attack.
"It's unreal right now," Helmich said after he was doused with a cooler of ice in Grant's ninth straight win and 10th in its last 11 games. "It's awesome but we're not done yet."
Helmich (11-1) had survived Friday's rain-delayed 5-2 sectional semifinal win over Crystal Lake South where he allowed 7 walks and 10 hits but started a game-ending triple play. The right-hander didn't need any dramatics as he finished with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk and send the Bulldogs (25-11) into Friday's 3 p.m. state semifinal at Joliet's Silver Cross Field against Oak Park-River Forest (29-9), which beat Highland Park 1-0 in the first supersectional at Rockford.
Helmich, who is going to Southern Illinois as a preferred walk-on, threw 78 of his 119 pitches for strikes and was still clocked in the low 80s on the stadium radar gun in the seventh to end the late-season run for Schaumburg (25-14) and retiring head coach Paul Groot.
"I was a little concerned warming up and I was feeling a little bit of stiffness," Helmich said of the first time he could remember pitching on two days rest. "I just felt good after the first inning and got loosened up. I felt like I was in control today and I was hitting the strike zone really good."
He felt even better after helping himself to a 3-run lead off Schaumburg junior lefty Max Paolicchi (6-4). Jake Ring walked, Jordan Villareal (2-for-4) singled, Helmich lined a single to right for the only run he would need and Spohr lined an RBI single to center.
"The coaches warned me he was a curveball pitcher so I stayed back," Spohr said. "I always get down 0-2 (in the count) so on the curve I just sit back and try to do my job."
Tino Torres was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Spohr made it 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second. Simeon Lucas' double set up Jacob Adams' two-out RBI single in a 2-run fourth off Matt Brancato and the Bulldogs added an unearned run in the fifth.
"Our hitting approach has been fantastic the last three weeks," said third-year coach and 2002 Grant graduate Dave Behm. "We're taking what people are giving to us, being patient and getting our pitch."
Schaumburg (25-14) had double-digit hit totals in its two sectional victories but got only leadoff singles from Colin Bethran in the second and Jordan Grubb in the sixth as its seven-game winning streak ended.
"He was sneaky fast and it was tough to see it out of his hand," Brancato said of Helmich.
"We knew a lot about this team but we didn't know a lot about their pitcher," said Groot, who finished with a 611-303 record with a state title in 1997 and a second-place finish in 1989. "He stuck it in our ear. He beat us with one pitch and came right at us.
"I was very impressed. He threw a lot of high fastballs and we helped him out but I don't know if it made much difference."
For Grant, it was a special moment for a program that lost assistant coach Craig Griffis to a battle with diabetes on Sept. 11, 2011.
"We're just doing it for him right now," Spohr said.
And for a school that won its only other state trophy in wrestling when it finished third in 2006.
"It's a fantastic cap of a great year for Grant sports ... it's unbelievable," Behm said.
"We knew we'd be pretty good and we had a bunch of solid guys," Helmich said. "I knew we'd have a good year but I didn't think it would be this good."