Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – As one of nine seniors on the Solon baseball team, Luke Ira is running out of chances to compete against rival Regina.
So he wants to make the most out of each opportunity, and did so on Thursday.
Ira belted a triple, double and a single and drove in three runs as Solon, ranked eighth in Class 3A, defeated Class 2A second-ranked Regina 10-5 at the Mount Mercy baseball complex.
The Spartans improved to 3-0 on the young season and extended their winning streak to five games over Regina.
“It feels great every time no matter what sport it is,” Ira said of defeating Regina.
Ira, who bats lead off for the Spartans, has been a mainstay in the Solon lineup since he was in eighth grade. He played shortstop in Thursday’s game and is also one of his team’s top pitchers.
“He’s a five-year starter,” Solon coach Keith McSweeney said of Ira, who will play baseball for South Dakota State. “He’s not your typical lead-off in the sense he hits for power as well, more than anybody on our team pretty much.
“The biggest thing is trying to get him up to bat as much as possible in every game. He’s a tough out. We were able to sacrifice and move guys over. And then he did his job and hits a triple off the wall and scores two and get us right back in the game.”
Solon was trailing 5-2 when Ira smacked a triple off the left-field fence to score two runs in the top of the fourth inning. The Spartans scored four runs total in the fourth inning to take a 6-5 lead, which they never relinquished.
“He couldn’t go quicker in my opinion,” Regina coach Jeff Pacha said of having to face Ira for so long. “But he’s a very good player. He plays the game the right way. He made a couple big plays for them, and there is never an at-bat that he has where you feel like you get the better of him.
“Every time he’s up there you feel like he’s a momentum shift in and of himself.”
Ira was hardly a solo act, though.
Fellow senior Tyler Linderbaum had two hits, drove in two runs and pitched the final inning in relief after starting the game at first base.
Junior catcher Adam Bock drove in two runs, including the first run of the game, while senior pitcher Eric Weetman grinded through six innings on the mound to earn the victory.
Regina was held scoreless in the final four innings.
“He was throwing well the whole game, so for him to stick out the last few innings and put up zeroes is awesome,” Ira said of Weetman.
Senior centerfielder Kendrick Harris smacked a triple in the first inning and scored the game’s first run on Bock’s single.
“The great thing about Solon and Regina baseball games is it kind of has a district feel, so they’re really fun for our guys to play and they know each other,” McSweeney said. “So those guys compete really hard.
“It’s really important for us to have these games to try to get getter.”
Pacha feels the same about facing Solon because he knows it’ll make his team better in the long run. The Regals often face teams from bigger divisions, including this past Tuesday when they defeated City High.
“This was a tough first week,” Pacha said. “It teaches us that we have to come out every night, because when we don’t do that we can at times beat a team when we’re not at our best and that doesn’t make us better.
“So we want to play these teams that aren’t going to beat themselves and are going to make us do everything right to have to win the ball game rather than them give it to us.”
Both teams struggled on defense and combined to commit six errors, including four by Solon.
That’s not uncommon during the early stages of the season as the players adjust to a new sport. Many of the players on both teams participate in other sports, including track and field, so it takes time to get the feel for baseball.
“This time of year is tricky with defense,” Pacha said. “They’ve got some guys that have been in state track, so they’re a little behind. We don’t have an infield right now and that showed a little bit defensively.
“But the thing about baseball more than any other sports is the team that plays the best wins, and they played the best tonight. You can’t just show up and have things play themselves out. You’ve got to do the little things right, and today, we weren’t quite there.”
Senior first baseman Blake Berns had two hits and scored two runs to lead the Regina offense.
Thursday's game was supposed to be played at Regina, but was moved to Mount Mercy because the Regina field is currently under repair. That's what Pacha was referring to when he said Regina doesn't have an infield right now.
Solon 110 402 2 – 10 9 4
Regina 023 000 0 – 5 6 2
Eric Weetman, Tyler Linderbaum (7) and Adam Bock; Ryan Schott, Evan Suchomel (6), Alex Meister and Trent Hoogerwerf
W – Eric Weetman L – Ryan Schott.
2B – SOL: Luke Ira
3B – SOL: Ira, Kendrick Harris