IOWA CITY — Braden Houston is the top guy in Iowa City West’s pitching staff.
The all-state right-hander is going to throw against potent lineups and he wouldn’t want it any other way. So, when Solon brought its formidable offense to town the senior was ready for the challenge.
“I love going after big teams,” Houston said. “I know Solon is capable of beating plenty of (Class) 4A teams. They are a very solid team.
“They have huge kids up and down their lineup. It gives me a little more motivation to be at my best, throw my best.”
Houston tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings and helped 4A second-ranked West to a 5-0 victory over the 3A No. 8 Spartans Monday night at West High. He improved to 2-0 this season and helped the Trojans move to 5-1.
“The changeup was fantastic and all three pitches were thrown for strikes,” West Coach Charlie Stumpff said. “That’s a really good lineup over there and for him to carve them up in the efficient manner he did was what he has been the last two years, which is really good.”
Houston was able to stifle the Solon batters, allowing just four hits and striking out seven. He has fanned 14 batters in 11 2/3 innings this season. He got Solon out of rhythm with early command of his fastball and mixed things up by varying speeds.
“We started throwing it first pitch,” Houston said. “We got them behind. It confuses the batters when you get ahead on first pitch with off-speed.”
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Austin West came in to get the final out because Houston had thrown 87 pitches, forcing Stumpff to conserve his pitch count for Friday. Houston was 9-1 last season. He was expected to be the No. 1 pitcher for an experienced and talented rotation.
“He’s our No. 1 guy,” Stumpff said. “We need him to evolve into a leader and he’s working on it.
”He’s our best pitcher and we need to bring other guys along. We have really good guys behind him.”
Jason Strunk got West on the board, hitting a sacrifice fly to score Nick Biancuzzo in the third. An inning later, senior Trevor Byers hit a two-run home run to make it 3-0.
“Trevor is real athletic and electric,” Stumpff said. “If he gets one, that’s what he can do. He needs to relax and play a little bit.
Houston and Ryan Cooper added RBI singles in the fifth and sixth, respectively. Houston and Chase Calderwood led West with two hits apiece.
Despite graduating most of its punch from last year’s lineup, West had seven hits and is averaging more than nine runs per game this season.
“Our lineup is not bad,” Stumpff said. “It’s just not the same. It’s just different.
“We are a good high school hitting team.”
Luke Ira, Cam Miller, Spencer Wegmann and Zach Wegmann each had a hit for Solon (5-1).
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