116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
SOLON — Luke Ira did a little bit of everything for Solon Monday night.
He stifled batters, played defense, got on base, stole a couple and drove in a few runs. He probably could have driven the team bus or done their laundry if he needed as well.
Ira earned the victory in the opener and finished with six total hits and five runs in Solon's Wamac Conference doubleheader sweep at home, beating class 3A eighth-ranked West Delaware, 7-3 and 13-0 in five innings.
'When I was pitching in the bullpen before the game, I knew I was locating and I kept locating on the outter half,' Ira said. 'My curve and slider were working well.
'At the plate, the ball looked huge. It seemed like I could hit everything.'
The junior right-hander and middle infielder pitched six solid innings, striking out 11 and increasing his season total to 26 in just 22 2/3 innings. He retired the Hawks in order in three frames and didn't allow an earned run, lowering his ERA that was at 1.68 before Monday.
'It was a different approach,' said Ira, who raised his record to 2-2. 'The first three games I was only throwing a slider for my breaking ball. I started throwing a curve with it to get different movement so it messes up the hitters.'
Ira's resolve when West Delaware rallied briefly pleased Solon Coach Keith McSweeney. A two-out error allowed a run to score in the second and then the Hawks cut Solon's lead to 5-3 in the third after another two-out error that led to RBI singles from Marshall McCarty and Jarod Harris. Ira closed it down by covering first on a grounder to end the inning.
'He took a deep breath,' McSweeney said. 'He got himself out of that inning and that was a sign of maturity. He bowed his neck and got the job done.'
He also went 4-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs, including a two-run home run that hit off the scoreboard in left that put Solon up, 4-0, in the opener.
Ira had two hits and scored twice in the nightcap. The Spartans battered the Hawks, sending 11 batters to the plate in the six-run third and seven-run fourth. Freshman Cam Miller provided the five-inning shutout, improving to 2-0. Payton Bandy had two hits and three RBIs and Zach Wegmann drove in two for Solon in the second game.
Ira has been a starter since he joined the team as an eighth-grader. Ira and Tyler Linderbaum, who reached base five times with two hits and scored three times in the twinbill, are part of a group crucial to the Spartans' results.
'We have a real strong junior class,' McSweeney said. 'We're going to need them to step up as leaders and with their play for us to succeed. (Monday night) they did that.'
After a state tournament appearance last season, Solon moved to 8-4 overall. The Spartans survived a slow start to the season and won their fifth straight game.
'For us, we took another step forward,' McSweeney said. 'We weren't really sure what direction we were going the first week and a half. We weren't build yet. ...
We continue to take steps and that is what I'm most pleased about.'
Kyle Wright and Grant Morris each had two hits to lead West Delaware (6-4).
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