Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Other than having it occur in a playoff game, West High senior Collin Leavy couldn’t have picked a better time, place or circumstance to hit his first home run in high school.
His mammoth solo blast to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the Trojans to a 5-4 victory over City High on Friday at Trojan Field.
West High earned a split in the doubleheader after dropping the first game 10-2, and is now 5-7 on the season, while City High is 9-6 after failing to get the much-desired sweep over its cross-town rival.
To say that Leavy was confident heading to the batter’s box in the seventh inning would be an understatement. He actually had convinced himself that he would hit a home run and said that that to himself as he approached the batter’s box.
“Before I want up to bat I was like, “I’m going to go yard on this, I said that in my head,” Leavy said. “I don’t mean to sound cocky, but that’s actually what happened.
“But I was just super confident. I mean all the boys, we just kept attacking, and I think that’s really what helped us out a lot.”
West High head coach Charlie Stumpff was proud of how his young and inexperienced team persevered and competed in the second game.
He was also relieved to have avoided being swept by the cross-town rival.
“We’re a different team this year,” Stumpff said of all the new starters in the lineup. “The schedule has been a little tougher. We’ve lost to ranked teams, Kennedy, Hempstead, Liberty, Xavier.
“So we’re kind of hanging in there. We don’t want to get too far underwater. So huge for us to get the win.”
Junior ace Marcus Morgan started on the mound for West High in the second game and grinded through six innings on a night when he didn’t appear to have his best stuff, and when the strike zone seemed small at times.
Morgan was lifted from the game in the sixth inning and with the bases loaded and no outs.
“He’ll get there,” Stumpff said of Morgan. “He had good velocity. We had him on the gun touch 89 (miles per hour) and sit on 85, 86 most of the time.”
Senior Drew Klein helped to set the stage for Leavy’s game-winning home run by replacing Morgan on the mound in the sixth and then striking out five of the seven batters he faced.
Klein did walk in the tying run in the sixth, but other than that, he was dominant.
“That is unbelievable what Drew Klein did,” Stumpff said. “He literally struck as many guys out in about seven batters as Marcus did the whole game. His change-up was crazy good.
“I said, we’re making memories, so Drew Klein, this is going to be it for baseball for him and he’ll be able to put that. Collin, a walk-off against City High, he’s going to play a little more. But these are the best times of your life, so enjoy it. It was huge for our guys.”
As for City High coach Brian Mitchell, he was frustrated to have let the second game slip away, and he let his players know it afterwards.
“I wasn’t very pleasant, actually,” Mitchell said. “We really did a nice job against Marcus. He’s very good, obviously. But we let up when we had the opportunity to in my opinion put that game away.”
Morgan only allowed two hits in the second game, but he struggled with walks and with falling behind in the count.
He also had to adjust to a new catcher after having thrown just two pitches as starting catcher Matthew Cupp left the game with an injury. Cupp was replaced by junior Aiden Clements, who held his own behind the plate under tough circumstances.
Mitchell said his team struggled to adjust to the difference in velocity from Morgan to Klein.
“I think we really struggled with that adjustment,” Mitchell said. “We try to practice those things, that situation. But they’re amped up timing for that velocity. And that big of a change, obviously, had a huge impact.”
City High sophomore Cade Obermueller helped to put his team in position for a sweep by pitching six strong innings in the first game.
Junior Egan Smith then pitched the seventh inning in relief for the Little Hawks.
Sophomore shortstop Gable Mitchell gave City High all the runs it needed in the first game by belting a 3-run home run to right field in the top of the first.
The son of head coach Brian Mitchell, and the grandson of former Iowa wresting coach and Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable, also made several nifty plays at shortstop, as did Morgan for West High in the first game while playing shortstop.
Friday’s game marked the first time that City High had played in a week, while West High only had two days to recover from a doubleheader against Cedar Rapids Kennedy on Wednesday.
Stumpff feels that that COVID-19 global pandemic has made it difficult for Morgan to get into a pitching groove because West High’s schedule has been so fluid and unpredictable throughout the shortened season.
“The Covid thing, he started throwing, and then he threw the next week and he’s good, and then we were supposed to play on Friday and it got cancelled,’ Stumpff said. “And then we were supposed to play on Monday, and he was going to pitch on Monday and it got cancelled.
“So he threw an inning up at Kennedy and was kind of like today. He didn’t have great command, and today the same thing. But he’s getting there.”
City High 300 012 4 – 10 14 2
West High 100 001 0 – 2 4 3
W – Cade Obermueller L – Collin Leavy
HR – ICH: Gable Mitchell
City High 101 101 0 – 4 2 2
West High 010 120 1 – 5 5 2
W – Drew Klein L – Egan Smith
HR – ICW: Collin Leavy