Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – West High junior Tony Comellas did something against City High on Thursday that he hadn’t done since playing little league baseball.
He started the game at pitcher and lasted four innings before moving to catcher where he finished the 10-3 victory over the Little Hawks.
In addition to his versatility, Comellas also showed his power by belting a three-run home run in the fourth inning when West High erupted for six runs to erase a 2-0 deficit.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s been a long time, 2002 is the last time we’ve had a guy like that” West Highcoach Charlie Stumpff said when asked the last time he had a player pitch and catch in the same game. “So you just try to take care of him. He pitches about once a week.
“It doesn’t happen often. But Tony has got good stuff on the mound and we’ll need him to give us a lot of innings this year because that’s the name of the game.”
Comellas didn’t know heading into Thursday’s game at Mercer Park that he would play a dual role.
“The plan was for me to pitch today and then catch tomorrow,” Comellas said in reference to Friday’s rematch at West High. “But if I would have just come out from pitching, I wouldn’t have been able to re-enter to catch.
“I just went in behind the plate just so I could get more at bats.”
Doing double duty ultimately took a toll on Comellas’ body, but winning made the pain easier to handle.
“Towards the end I started cramping up in my right hamstring, but it wasn’t that bad,” Comellas said. “My arm felt loose from pitching. So it wasn’t that bad to transition into that.”
Comellas said he used to sometimes pitch and catch in the same game in little league. But Thursday was the first time he did it in high school.
“A lot of people are like, on no, pitching and catching on the same day, but this was a big game for us,” Comellas said.
The third-ranked Trojans improved to 11-4 overall and will host City on Friday, while the Little Hawks fell to 10-5 overall.
West has won the last nine games in the series and 17 of the last 18 games against City overall.
However, the Little Hawks entered Thursday’s game filled with confidence after winning 10 of their first 14 games.
City also had senior Bryce Frantz on the mound, but the proven southpaw didn’t have his best stuff and walked five batters before being lifted with two outs in the fourth. City allowed 11 walks overall.
“I thought for the most part we were on our heels tonight,” City coach Brian Mitchell said. “We got a little lead and they came back and Bryce wasn’t himself tonight. He struggled a little bit locating.”
City senior Joey Schnoebelen knocked in the first two runs in the game with a single in the third inning. Senior shortstop Caleb Sass scored one of the runs after reaching base with a double.
West answered back with six runs in the fourth, with half of the runs coming on Comellas’ homer off Frantz that sailed well beyond the left field fence.
“It felt really good,” said Comellas, who drove in a fourth run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. “I saw him digging into his glove and I kind of knew what was coming. I saw he was going to throw something off speed and he just hung it up.”
Comellas' blast also was timely because it came shortly after City had taken the lead.
“We knew we had to score runs to win the game, so I wasn’t that shook up about it,” Comellas said of the early deficit. “And then we came back and put up six runs and that was huge.”
Senior third baseman Izaya Ono-Fullard reached base four times for West and drove in two runs with a single in the seventh.
Senior right fielder Connor McCaffery also reached base four times for West and drove in a run in the sixth.
Emotions always run high when City and West meet in any sport. But Thursday’s game had some extra incentive with City having played so well this season behind a strong senior class that includes Frantz and Brett McCleary.
“I think our guys had a good idea, I mean this is a really veteran team,” Stumpff said of City. “Frantz has been throwing for three years and McCleary has been playing. When you can put seniors out there, our guys shouldn’t overlook anybody.
“And we’ve been scuffling a little bit this week. So if we play with focus and energy, we’ll take our chances against anybody. Usually, this game, we’ll have energy, so that’s the good thing about this. We don’t always play clean, but we’ll play hard in this game.”
Stumpff expects a different game on Friday with McClearly expected to pitch for City against West junior Braden Houston.
McCleary hasn’t allowed any runs earned over 11 2/3 innings, while Houston has gone 19 innings without allowing a run.
“I would expect a totally different game tomorrow, probably low scoring,” Stumpff said. “The team that plays cleaner will probably be the one that comes out winning tomorrow.”
The good news for the City players is they don’t have to wait long for the rematch.
“That's what we just told them,” Mitchell said. “It’s the game of baseball. We’ve got to come right back. You’ve got to be able to bounce back.
“It is what it is. It happened. These guys believe in themselves and it’s great opportunity.”
West High 000 610 3 – 10 9 2
City High 002 010 0 – 3 8 5
Tony Comellas, Austin West (5) and Lucas Karwal and Comellas (5); Bryce Frantz, Levi Pugh (4), Quenton Max (7) and Brett McCleary.
W – Tony Comellas L – Bryce Frantz
2B – ICH: Caleb Sass, Dylan Deshler, Levi Pugh.
HR – ICW: Tony Comellas