West rallies to beat City in extras

Trojans battle back from an 8-0 deficit to win in walk-off fashion against City High.


Alyssa Skala

Jason Strunk ’19 performs a pre-game handshake with teammate Zac Moore ’19 before their game against City High on July 11.

Joe Goodman, Sports Editor

Those who left will surely regret it, while those who stayed will surely never forget what they saw.

The Trojans and Little Hawks put on a show in one of the most highly-anticipated matchups of the Iowa high school baseball season, a game which ended nearly four hours after its scheduled start. The hype leading up to the game seemed to be escalating by the minute as fans scrambled to find empty space for viewing amongst the crowds of red and green.

“Brady (Herzic) and (Jason) Strunk have been talking about this game since February,” said Zach Peterson, a close friend of Jason Strunk ‘19. 

“There’s always a couple of social media posts before the game and players like to talk to each other,” Owen McAreavy ‘19 added.

The battle between Herzic, City High’s ace pitcher, and Strunk, who leads the Trojans with six home runs, proved to be a minor footnote in a game that featured an eight-run comeback, extra innings and a walk-off hit.

The Trojans (29-6) got off to a rough start, to say the least. Despite starting Marcus Morgan ‘21, the class 4A leader in ERA, the Trojans let up five runs to the Little Hawks (21-13) in the first inning as a result of multiple fielding errors which dug the Trojans an early deficit.  

Alyssa Skala
Marcus Morgan ’21 stretches on the mound during the top of the first inning in a game against City High on July 11.

The packed crowd and constant chatter from the City High dugout appeared to rattle the Trojans early on.

“There was a lot bigger crowd then we were used to facing,” Ben Vander Leest ‘20 said. “The first few innings I feel like we were a little tight and not playing our real baseball.”

The City High lead quickly ballooned to 8-0 as three innings had passed without a hit for the Trojans. It was about this time the bleachers began to empty as dejected West High fans left the stadium.

Little did they know the show had only just begun for the Trojans, who got on the board in the sixth when Owen McAreavy ‘19 plated Strunk on an RBI double, his second of four hits on the night.

“I was just trying to get a hit and extend the inning anyway I could,” McAreavy explained.

Vander Leest had come on to relieve in the fifth inning and continued his dominance on the mound into the top of the seventh. Nick Fleckenstein ‘19 made two impressive diving plays at shortstop during that stretch to keep the Little Hawk lead at seven.

After throwing three straight scoreless innings, Vander Leest stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh and blasted a solo home run over the right-field fence to spark the Trojans rally.

“He hung a curveball and I got a good piece of it,” VanderLeest explained. “Coming back into the dugout I knew we had to keep the really going.”

Ryan Cooper ’19 positions himself behind the plate during a game against City High on July 11.

The Trojans did just that as Fleckenstein doubled through the gap in left field, which set up Nick Biancuzzo ‘19 for an RBI single up the middle. Ben Madden ‘20 moved the runners around for Ryan Cooper ‘19, who reached base on an error. After Casey Marvin ‘19 singled, the stage was set for McAreavy once again.

McAreavy sent a rocket over the left field fence, tying the score with a three-run shot and sending the West High faithful into a frenzy. 

The job was far from finished, however, as City High would score two in the top of the eighth off an RBI double from Liam McComas ‘19. Alex Swack ‘19 came in to relieve and got the Trojans out of a jam by striking out two Little Hawks with the bases loaded.

The two-run deficit did little to crush the momentum of the Trojans, who quickly loaded the bases for Strunk in the bottom of the eighth. After a fielder’s choice RBI and an infield error by the Little Hawks, McAreavy was back at the plate with runners on second and third. 

A walk-off single down the left field line from McAreavy would cap off an unbelievable comeback for the Trojans, who overcame an eight-run deficit and five errors in the field to win the first of two games against the Little Hawks.

“(The hit) felt great,” McAreavy rejoiced, visibly exhausted from the mobbing he received at the hands of his teammates. “After they scored two in the top of the inning we got our heads together and made our run.”

The Trojans will be looking to make a similar run come playoff time, but for now they turn their attention to their next matchup against City at Mercer Park on July 12.