IOWA CITY — The play was not always pretty, but Iowa City West got the job done.
Senior Braden Houston played a large role.
The right-handed starter threw a complete-game four-hitter, had two hits with an RBI and kick-started double plays in the final two innings of Class 4A ninth-ranked West’s 3-2 victory over rival Iowa City High on Thursday night at West.
“I pretty much told the guys it wasn’t very good,” West Coach Charlie Stumpff said. “Braden just bailed us out all night.”
Houston received a rude welcome from City High leadoff hitter D.J. Heck, who drilled a home run over the left-field fence to open the game. He said he left a pitch up and in and Heck made him pay.
“He hit it hard,” Houston said. “That’s a credit to him. I made a bad pitch but he made a better hit.”
Houston settled down, retiring the next 10 batters and 14 of the next 16 through the fifth. City High rallied in the sixth thanks to two consecutive errors to start the inning and a bunt single by Travis Reyhons to load the bases. An error on a Jacob Dykes grounder scored Cole Milder to cut the deficit to one, but Houston flashed a little leather.
Houston grabbed a come-back shot by Zach Kuepker, throwing home to catcher Lucas Karwal, who tossed to first to complete the inning-ending double play. Houston stayed composed through the rough start and the late rally. It’s something he struggled with as a youth player.
“I’ve known it’s a huge factor when you pitch,” Houston said. “You move on. Each inning, out (and) pitch is different. You just have to go 100 percent every time.”
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City High drew a leadoff walk in the seventh. With the tying run on first, Houston, also a shortstop, caught a botched sacrifice bunt and doubled the runner off first, getting the next batter to pop out to end it.
“It’s good to have shortstops as pitchers,” Stumpff said. “They usually do OK like that. He’s been doing everything.”
West (11-4, 4-3) scored twice in the third inning for a 2-1 lead. Alex Granner walked to start and Alex Schwickerath reached on an error. Granner scored on Karwal’s RBI groundout, while Schwickerath came in on one of Houston’s two base hits.
Granner provided the game-winner, driving in Nick Biancuzzo, with a double in the fourth.
City High (9-5, 4-3) squandered a strong pitching performance from starter Ry Threlkeld-Wiegand, who allowed three runs on just five hits and struck out eight. Dykes came in and threw a scoreless sixth inning.
“Our pitchers gave us a chance toward the end,” City High Coach Brian Mitchell said. “You ask your pitchers to keep you in it and keep battling.
“Obviously, we put some pressure on them and they made a few mistakes that allowed us some opportunities, but it was unfortunate for us that we have a good at-bat and hit a ball hard right back to the pitcher that doubles us up. That was tough. Even the last inning, we put ourselves by getting our leadoff on but didn’t execute and that’s how we got beat.”
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