Your Prep Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS – With the potential go-ahead run on third base in the top of the ninth inning veteran West High coach Charlie Stumpff had a decision to make.
Swing away or squeeze bunt?
Moments after the game Matthew Cupp still wasn’t sure what decision Stumpff actually made in that moment but the senior catcher was positive it ended up working out.
A squeeze bunt by Cupp plated Collin Leavy with the game-winning run as Class 4A eighth-ranked West High edged No. 10 Cedar Rapids Prairie in the season opener for both teams on Tuesday in Cedar Rapids.
“I looked down and see Stumpff give the sign and apparently he wipes it off after to cancel it and I didn’t see that so I was ready to bunt it,” Cupp said. “Colin didn’t know he was supposed to steal and he just went after he saw it down and it worked out. I still don’t know. I think it was supposed to be off. Coach just said ‘whatever works’.”
Leavy drew a leadoff walk in the top of the ninth, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch.
With one out and ninth-place hitter Cupp at the plate Stumpff went with the squeeze. Sort of.
Cupp saw the squeeze sign, Leavy saw the wipe off.
It still worked out as Cupp pushed a bunt toward the mound and an alert Leavy beat the throw from Cedar Rapids Prairie reliever Hunter Williams to the plate.
“It was kind of a botched thing, Matthew saw it, Leavy didn’t and it worked out, it was a great bunt by Matthew,” Stumpff said. “We are a little different hitting team this year,” Stumpff said. “We are going to have to piece it together and Matthew came up big.”
West High managed just three hits off three Cedar Rapids Prairie starters but used strong pitching and nearly spotless defense to put itself in position to win with Cupp’s bunt.
Senior Ben Vander Leest allowed just one run on four hits while striking out five in five strong innings.
Leavy earned the win by working four scoreless innings of relief.
“We know Vandy will throw strikes and he was everything we wanted there and Collin we need him to come through and he did,” Stumpff said. “We got great pitching and we’ll try to figure out how to hit the ball but I think Prairie throws it pretty well.”
Prairie starter Caden Stoffer left the game with an apparent arm injury after three batters but Collin Rickertsen and Williams combined to keep the West High offense in check.
West High took a 1-0 lead in the third when Mason Daines led off with a single and scored on a two-out error.
Prairie answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double by Zach Borden.
That was all the offense Prairie could muster as Vander Leest retired six of the final seven batters he faced.
“I would say that both of my off-speed pitches were really working tonight and it kept them off balance,” Vander Leest said. “When I threw the fastball, it’s not the fastest thing in the world, but it worked out because I was mixing it up and coach was making really good pitch calls.”
West High played errorless defense behind Vander Leest and Leavy ending the fourth and eighth innings with double plays.
Prairie put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth but Leavy got Aiden Moeller to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play turned by Vander Leest and Marcus Morgan.
“Previously in the past West has had a bunch of big hitters and it’s a little different this year and we talked that we have to play a little more small ball and our defense is a big part of that,” Vander Leest said. “If we can have no errors like we did tonight that’s going to be huge in keeping runs off the board and giving us a chance to win even if we score two runs.”
Leavy and Drew Klein each had singles for West High which returns just one full-time starter from last year’s state semifinal team.
“I was expecting this to be a pitchers duel for sure,” Cupp said. “This boosts our confidence and moral to get this first one off the bat.”
West High 001 000 001 – 2 3 0
CR Prairie 001 000 000 – 1 7 1
W – Collin Leavy L – Hunter Williams
2B – CRP: Hunter Williams, Zach Barden