Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – As a senior on the City High baseball team, Brett McCleary was running out of time and opportunities to defeat rival West High.
But now he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, thanks largely to himself.
McCleary helped City end a nine-game losing streak against West by allowing just one run over six innings and by smacking a three-run home run during Friday’s 8-1 victory at West High.
He finished with 11 strikeouts on the mound, scored two times and was intentionally walked twice.
“The last four years we’ve competed with West and it’s always been a huge game for us,” McCleary said. “So looking at it, we knew we got beat yesterday and had a big one today. So I think we kind of treated it like any other game. We came out here and played hard.
“And at the end of the day, I had a good day on the bump and my teammates backed me up. And when you play good baseball, you get good wins.”
McCleary tried to treat Friday’s matchup as just another game, but deep down he knew better, especially in the wake of Thursday's 10-3 loss to West at Mercer Park.
West has been one of the top programs in the state during McCleary’s four years at City. The Trojans have finished runner up at the state tournament in each of the past three seasons, while the Little Hawks have been trying to get over the hump under head coach Brian Mitchell.
Friday’s victory was a significant step in doing that as City improved to 11-5 overall and now has the same record as West.
“I’ll tell you what, it means a tremendous amount to the kids,” Mitchell said. “And that’s where as a coach you say, ‘okay, this is a piece of the equation for us, a piece of the puzzle. This is not the pinnacle for us.
“But I tell you what, these kids, they feel that pressure all day. You saw it last night.”
Mitchell was referring to Thursday’s loss to West in which the Little Hawks surrendered an early 2-0 lead. City also committed five errors in Thursday’s loss and its pitchers allowed 11 walks.
The Little Hawks had no errors in Friday’s game and allowed just three walks.
McCleary also had stretch in the fifth and sixth innings where he struck out five consecutive batters.
“I thought we were super relaxed and we just had a real good approach to the game,” said Mitchell, who played baseball at City.
McCleary’s fastball was clocked in the mid-to-high 80s throughout his six innings on the mound. He was lifted for the seventh inning after throwing 101 pitches.
There is a new rule that prohibits a pitcher from throwing more than 110 pitches in a game. So McCleary knew why he had to come out, but he still didn’t like it.
“It was very frustrating, I had nine pitches left, actually, and I tried to get them to let me go,” McCleary said. “But being a catcher, I understand that I’ve got to rest my arm a little bit.”
Junior Quenton Max pitched the seventh inning for City. He hit the first batter he faced and then gave up a double to West catcher Lucas Karwal and a walk to Nate Disterhoft before getting the final three outs to secure the milestone win.
McCleary usually catches when he isn’t pitching, although, he was playing first base when Friday’s game ended on Connor McCaffery’s fly out to left field.
McCleary raised his arms in triumph when the final out was made. He and his teammates then celebrated a victory that had been so elusive.
“We’ve got to play better, but he threw real well,” West coach Charlie Stumpff said of McCleary. “He came out and was still throwing high eighties at the end of the game.
“So basically, you tip your hat to him. I think it takes that kind of effort against us. He was really good. And we weren’t clean and let it get away.”
After both teams were held scoreless in the first two inning, City scored four runs in the third, including three on McCleary’s homer to right field that came on a curve ball.
“I know that I had seen a ton of curve balls over the last two days, that’s kind of all they throw me,” McCleary said. “And I kind of went up there thinking curve ball and just sat back.
“But I didn’t think I had it right off the bat.”
City High 004 021 1 – 8 7 0
West High 001 000 0 – 1 6 3
Brett McCleary, Quenton Max (7) and Zachary Stone; Braden Houston, Clary Warren (5), Tyler Stern (6), Ty Bopp (7) and Lucas Karwal.
W – Brett McCleary L – Braden Houston
2B – ICH: Caleb Sass, Joey Schnoebelen
3B – ICW: Logan Sims
HR – ICH: Brett McCleary