DES MOINES — There’s a reason Charlie Stumpff has won a ton in his career. He’s got a great feel for the game.
With the winning run on first base and none out in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday night, the Iowa City West head coach easily could have called for a sacrifice bunt. He didn’t.
After an ensuing single moved the winning run to second base with none out in the bottom of the seventh, again he easily could have called for a sacrifice bunt. He didn’t.
A walk loaded the bases. An out later, Spencer Wiskus singled past first base, and West had a 4-3 win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson in a thriller of a Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal at Principal Park.
“He always says he wants hitters to hit,” said West’s Izaya Ono-Fullard. “He always has trust in us that we’re going to come up big, get a hit.”
“I’m too old for this,” Stumpff said with a smile.
West (34-6) seemed to have a nice, tidy 3-1 win in its back pocket, but Jefferson (28-12) rallied in the top of the seventh. Caleb Stekl and Braden Frazier sandwiched walks around a Zeb Render single against reliever Tanner Lohaus to load the bases with none out.
Lohaus came back to strike the next two hitters out, but Manny Olutunde laced a two-strike breaking ball into center field to tie it.
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“If it was a fastball, I was going to rip it. If it was a curveball, I was going to try and stay back on it,” Olutunde said. “I stayed back on it and just hit it right back up the middle. I was the happiest man in the world. I thought we were going to win the game.”
Tyler Roeder then hit a towering drive to left-center field that West center fielder Logan Sims ran down on the warning track. It was a three-run home run in virtually every high-school ballpark in the state but not here.
Sims got the benefit of a ball-four checked-swing call against Jeff pitcher Spencer Van Scoyoc leading off the bottom of the seventh. Izaya Ono-Fullard blooped a single into left-center, and Connor McCaffery walked to load them.
Again, no bunts allowed.
“He’s never called me for a bunt,” said McCaffery, who tripled home the go-ahead run in the fifth and scored on the play on an errant relay throw into the Jefferson dugout. “That’s what he told me when I came down (the line) to talk to him. He said. ‘You’ve never been told to bunt in your life, so I don’t know why you’re coming over here.’”
“Hitters hit,” Stumpff said. “Izaya, you have bunted, but you’re seeing it as well as anybody. It’s just got to be matchups, and Z is as good a hitter as we have. He’s going to get as good a swing on Spencer as you can. Good work by those guys.”
Van Scoyoc struck out Oliver Martin for the first out, but Wiskus sliced the first pitch he saw past first baseman Connor Van Scoyoc to end it.
“I definitely thought (Sims) swung,” said Spencer Van Scoyoc, the Arizona State signee. “That just kind of helps with the momentum on their side. Then they got the bloop hit, I walked somebody. They just got the job done.”
West took a 1-0 lead in the second against J-Hawks starter Connor Van Scoyoc. With two away and a runner on third, Lohaus dribbled a ball up the third-base line that Van Scoyoc tried to pick up barehand but couldn’t. He was given a tough error.
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Spencer Van Scoyoc doubled to the fence in left-center leading off the Jeff fourth, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Stekl’s sacrifice fly to right. That was the only run against West starting pitcher Austin Miller, who was relieved by Lohaus in the sixth.
“It was good to see the fight in the boys, to rally there in that last inning,” Jefferson Coach Kyle Rodenkirk said. “A two-run deficit is big in the state tournament, but I always believe in those guys. I knew they weren’t going to roll over and quit. They’re fighters, we play blue-collar baseball. It was a heck of a game.”
West, the second seed, plays Des Moines Roosevelt (33-10) in a 4A semifinal Friday night at 7:30. The Trojans were last year’s runner-up.
“After our substate final, we found out we were going to play Jeff, and we were a little scared,” said Ono-Fullard, who had three of West’s nine hits. “We knew we were going to see either Spencer or Connor Van Scoyoc and knew that was going to be tough right off the bat. Playing a team that good is really good for us. To see that kind of pitching, that might be the best we’ll see the whole tournament.”
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