IOWA CITY — Trouble started at the top Wednesday night for the Davenport West baseball team.
Hitters in the top five spots in the Iowa City West batting order reached base 14 out of a possible 17 times to send the hard-hitting Trojans to an Iowa Class 4A state tournament berth with an 11-1, 5-inning substate victory over the Falcons.
“They were tough outs for us tonight. Their hitters had it going,’’ West coach Scott Beatty said.
Tony Comellas and Connor McCaffery each homered early before Izaya Ono-Fullard ended the game with a grand slam with no outs in the bottom of the fifth.
Their power was complemented by the finesse of junior pitcher Braden Houston, who improved to 8-1 on the season by blending his fastball with an effective change-up which never allowed the Falcons to settle into any sort of flow offensively.
“I think there were some nerves. We got behind. We didn’t play our normal game,’’ said Davenport West first baseman Colton Jones, the lone senior in the Falcons lineup. “We needed a couple of early hits to settle in and play. That never happened.’’
The Falcons had an early chance after a Clayton Nettleton double with one out in the second inning advanced Ryan McKown to third after he had reached on a leadoff single.
Houston followed worked out of the jam with his only consecutive strikeouts of the game, among a collection of six he earned while walking one batter in the five-hit victory.
“Offensively, we seemed tight,’’ Beatty said. “We didn’t come up with the key hit and Houston had something to do with that. He kept us off balance enough with his change-up that it made it tough to get much going.’’
In the bottom of the second, Comellas opened the inning with a home run to left center, giving Iowa City West (31-8) a lead it would not relinquish.
“Big momentum swing there,’’ Beatty said. “If we put a run or two up in the top of the inning, it changes things. Instead, they get the run with the homer and we find ourselves playing from behind.’’
The Trojans added three runs to their lead in both the third and fourth innings, using a towering two-run home run to center by McCaffery in the fourth after Ono-Fullard reached base when he was hit by a pitch.
Lucas Karwal followed with an RBI single which left the Falcons (22-15) in a 4-0 hole before Davenport West cut into the lead in the top of fourth inning.
Back-to-back doubles by McKown and Noah McCreary opened the inning, but Houston followed with a strikeout, a flyout and a groundout to thwart the Falcons’ hopes of coming any closer than 4-1.
Five of the first six Iowa City West batters to face Nettleton in the bottom of the fourth reached base and a McCaffery RBI single drove in the first of three runs as the Trojans extended their lead to 7-1 before the Falcons turned their third double play of the game.
Davenport West left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth and once play resumed after a 30-minute delay because of lightning in the vicinity, Ono-Fullard followed three walks with a grand slam to right to give the Trojans a 10-run lead that ended the game early.