CRANBERRY TWP — As far as foundations go, Kyle Helisek laid down a good one this past summer.
The graduate of Seneca Valley High and Villanova University built an impressive resume as a pitcher at both the scholastic and collegiate level. He was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 30th round of June's First-Year Baseball Player Draft and spent the entire season with Batavia (NY), the team's Short Season Class A affiliate in the New York-Penn League.
Helisek put up solid numbers, seeing action in 12 games (starting 10) and compiling a 4-2 record with an ERA of 3.42. He struck out 33 and walked 18 in 55 1/3 innings pitched while opponents hit just .241 against him.
“I couldn't believe how much I learned about pitching in just one summer,” said Helisek, a left-hander. “I owe a lot to manager Dann Bilardello and pitching coach Dernier Orozco. Just the overall approach, you can't throw the same stuff to every batter. They taught me what to throw to certain batters.”
It didn't take Helisek (6-foot, 170 pounds) long to find out firsthand that he was surrounded by a different caliber of player than he was used to in the Big East Conference.
“At the start of the season, I was watching our team take batting practice and every guy was capable of hitting a home run,” he said. “In college, there may have been four or five players on each team who could hit one. I knew I really had to focus on keeping the ball down over the summer.”
And he did, allowing just one home run the entire season.
Helisek's most impressive outing came in just his third appearance and second start for the Muckdogs.
Against Jamestown July 18, Helisek pitched six no-hit innings before being taken out of the game. He left with a pair of strikeouts and no walks.
“Everything was working that night and my defense was incredible behind me,” he said, “but I was working with a pitch count all summer and that's why they took me out. Once I began starting games, they wouldn't allow me to throw more than 70 pitches in any one game.”
Helisek's best strikeout effort came Aug. 25 against Williamsport. He fanned six in five innings while earning the win.
His arsenal includes a fastball, curveball, changeup and an improved slider.
He's not resting on his one solid season in professional baseball, though. Helisek just returned from a training facility in Massachusetts, where he received a workout program for the offseason.
“Between the major and minor leagues, that place deals with about 100 baseball players,” he said. “I want to get a full body workout and increase my overall strength. Then I'll get back to throwing and getting ready for next season.
“I was extremely happy to be drafted and couldn't be more appreciative of the Cardinals. I just want to make the most of it.”