Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – On a night when emotions nearly boiled over due to some controversial calls and a collision at home plate, Austin West just kept throwing strikes and trusting his defense.
The West High senior was making his first start at the varsity level, but it was hard to tell as Austin West shutdown rival City High by allowing just three hits during a 1-0 victory on Friday at Mercer Park.
“It’s City-West, a big-time game,” West said. “I just wanted to go out and give my team a quality start and I think I did that.”
There is no disputing that Austin West gave his team a quality start, but there was plenty of other stuff that happened during Friday’s game that led to disputes.
West High scored its only run, which was unearned, in a wild sixth inning that saw West High head coach Charlie Stumpff and pinch runner Mason Sorge both ejected.
Stumpff was tossed from the game shortly after Sorge had been ejected for plowing into City High catcher Liam McComas at home plate with the Trojans leading 1-0.
Sorge was on third base when City High relief pitcher Jacob Dykes caught him off the bag on a pickoff attempt. That led to a rundown between third base and home plate.
Sorge was on the verge of scoring after McComas dropped a throw near home plate that had sailed high. But instead of sliding, Sorge lowered his shoulder and bulled into McComas at home plate, costing his team a run.
“He ran him over and you can’t do that, it’s against the rules,” said West High assistant coach Jesse Searls. “So we live, we learn and we move on. They battled and kept battling and that would have been an easy turning point to say well, Charlie gets kicked out and Mason gets kicked out, now crap, what do we do?
“But we kept moving forward and we kept battling and clawed our way through. And a lot of that has to do with Austin West on the mound. He just shut them down the entire game.”
Frustration had been building on both sides due to some questionable calls by the umpires that hurt both teams. It then nearly boiled over in the sixth inning after the collision at home plate.
"We certainly had plenty of things to say to our squad," Mitchell said. "But we played a pretty good game. It was a really good game, a lot of emotion, obvioulsy. And I thought we were more composed tonight believe it or not based on a lot of things that took place."
Friday’s game came 24 just hours after West High had edged City High 3-2 at Trojan Field. Emotions also ran high in that game as West High centerfielder Jason Strunk was ejected in the sixth inning apparently for arguing balls and strikes.
Strunk was suspended for Friday’s game because of the ejection and was replaced in centerfield by freshman Marcus Morgan.
Austin West helped himself by changing speeds and consistently getting ahead of the batters. He only had one walk to go along with eight strikeouts.
“I was just trying to pound the zone,” Austin West said. “I’ve got a really talented defense behind me. I just wanted to let them work and make them beat us with their bats and not let up free bases and stuff like that.
“And our defense played really well, no errors and I’ll take that.”
City High, on the other hand, committed four errors, including two in the sixth inning that led to the only run in the game.
The Little Hawks received a strong performance on the mound from junior Brady Herzic, who overcame a shaky first inning to record a quality start. He only allowed four hits and finished with five strikeouts and just one walk.
“Brady was unbelievable,” said City High coach Brian Mitchell. “He was really good at mixing his speeds and he did a great job.”
Mitchell said he wasn’t surprised by Austin West’s performance on the mound despite it being his first start at the varsity level.
“They’ve always got good arms, so I wasn’t surprised at all,” Mitchell said. “You talk about being competitive with your bats and we need to get better there and we need to be able to knock that pitcher out either through pitch count or whatever it might be.
“But he did a real good job of probably taking advantage of our anxiousness at times. So compliments to him. He did a great job.”
City High put runners on first and second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Austin West recorded a strikeout to end the game.
West then turned to his bench, clinched his fist and tossed his glove as he walked off the mound with the victory secured.
Austin West said he was determined to pitch a complete game after having made it into the late innings.
“I knew after we got that one (run) I was feeling good and I was really confident that our defense could finish it up,” said West, who was used strictly as a relief pitcher last season.
Austin West is just a few weeks removed from the track and field season where he won a state title in the 400-meter hurdles. He hasn’t had much time to get his arm ready to pitch, but there were no signs of rustiness or fatigue on Friday as West threw 91 pitches.
“It’s pretty tough,” West said of making the transition from track and field to baseball. “I didn’t do a good enough job of getting my arm ready. I started throwing basically when the season started.
“So getting to throw however many pitches I threw tonight is a good sign of where my arm is. I’ve just got to get the velocity up a little bit.”
West High improved to 12-4 overall and 5-3 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, while City High fell to 9-6 and 4-4 in conference play.
West High 000 001 0 – 1 5 0
City High 000 000 0 – 0 3 4
Austin West and Lucas Karwal; Brady Herzic and Liam McComas.
W – Austin West L – Brady Herziz