• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Charlie’s thinking deep

Preview: Iowa City West varsity baseball
West High’s Connor McCaffery slides into third base as a Jefferson outfielder throws the ball into the J-Hawks’ dugout in the bottom of the fifth inning of a 2016 Class 4A State Baseball Tournament match-up. McCaffery is one of 13 Trojans this season. (North Liberty Leader file photo by Chris Umscheid)

North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– It should be another interesting season on the diamond for the Iowa City West High varsity Trojans baseball team. The team lost five talented seniors to graduation: Nate Barnes, Tanner Lohaus, Austin Miller, Spencer “Spud” Wiskus and Oliver “North” Martin. But there’s enough hitting firepower left to encourage 24-year head coach Charlie Stumpff. Add-in the fact it is long-time assistant coach Tom Cronk’s last season with the Trojans (Cronk will take over the varsity baseball program at Liberty High in 2018), 14 newcomers to the squad and a question mark over the pitcher’s mound; and you’ve got the makings for another wild ride to Des Moines and the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament.
Barnes, Lohaus and Miller were the core of the Trojan pitching staff last year. Barnes gave up 41 hits (in 55.1 innings), 21 earned runs and struck out 47 with a 2.66 ERA, Lohaus gave up 38 hits (in 40 innings), 46 earned runs, struck out 29 and had a 4.61 ERA while Miller surrendered 66 hits (over 80.2 innings), 22 earned runs and struck out 75 with a 1.91 ERA. Wiskus was a top hitter for the Trojans with 123 at bats good for 38 hits, 23 RBI, four doubles, two triples and one home run. Wiskus had a .309 batting average. Martin belted out 46 hits in 108 appearances at the plate with 25 RBIs, five doubles, two triples and two homers. Martin stole 24 bases and hit with a .426 average.
The seniors led West High to yet another state tournament appearance, as the number two seed in Class 4A. A six-run inning by Cedar Rapids Prairie in the championship game led to the team’s third-consecutive runner-up trophy, its fifth since 2009. The Trojans finished 2016 with a 35-7 record overall and a 22-4 Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) showing.
While the quintet will be missed, Stumpff and company are optimistic about the returning lineup.
“It looks like we will have the potential for an excellent lineup as we return six starters including Des Moines Register 1st-Team All-State performer Connor McCaffery and Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association 2nd-Team All-State performer Izaya Ono-Fullard.”
McCaffery, a senior outfielder, led the Trojans at bat with 50 hits last year including 10 doubles, four triples and eight home runs. He knocked in 33 runners and stole seven bases with a .407 batting average. Ono-Fullard had 46 hits, 35 RBI, nine doubles and two homers with a .354 batting average. He’ll split his time between the infield and the mound.
“Nate Disterhoft, Dane Randall and Logan Sims are starting their third season, and Jayson Strunk had an unbelievable freshman season (capped off by a walk-off home run in the state semifinals). Hopefully this translates into a very deep lineup that can put pressure on opposing pitching staffs,” Stumpff said.
Disterhoft, a senior first baseman, had 41 hits last season including four doubles, one triple and one homer. He drove in 25 runs and stole 16 bases with a .363 batting average. Randall, a senior pitcher, catcher and infielder, had 30 hits and 20 RBI with a .385 batting average. On the mound, he worked 14 innings giving up 21 hits and 11 earned runs with a 5.50 ERA. Sims, also a senior, had 41 hits and 29 RBI. He belted out 10 doubles, one triple and one homer with a .350 batting average. Sims will spend some time on the mound as well as in the outfield. Strunk, a sophomore outfielder, had 36 hits and drove in 38 runs. He had 10 doubles, three triples and three homers including the aforementioned state tourney bomb. Strunk hit with a .330 batting average. Braden Houston, a junior, is back as well as a pitcher and outfielder. Houston threw for 40 innings last year giving up 38 hits and a dozen earned runs. He struck out 29 and had a 2.10 ERA.
Also back are Jake Peterson (pitcher/infielder), Jack Wilson (pitcher/outfielder), Teagan Bell (infield) and Ty Bopp (pitcher/catcher).
Jayson Barnes (pitcher/infielder), Trevor Byers (pitcher/outfielder), Tony Comellas (pitcher/catcher), Aiden Crowley (pitcher/infielder), Austin Curtiss (pitcher/1st baseman), Alex Granner (outfielder), Connor Greer (pitcher/infielder), Carter Johnson (catcher), Lucas Karwal (catcher), Alex Schwickerath (infielder), Tyler Stern (pitcher/first baseman), Logan Trumbull (catcher), Clay Warren (pitcher/outfielder) and Austin West (pitcher/outfielder) join the Trojans this season.
Even with a large pitching staff, Stumpff says pitching will be the huge question mark going into the season.
“Braden (Houston) had an outstanding sophomore year,” Stumpff said, “and is the only returning starter (to the mound).”
Stumpff added the graduated seniors accounted for 25 of last year’s 35 wins. “Team chemistry and work ethic is always a concern going into a new season: it’s human nature to become complacent when you’ve had so much success in previous seasons. We will definitely be fighting this and hopefully the guys will respond in a positive manner,” he said.
In addition to Cronk, Jesse Searls will also assist Stumpff this season.
The season opened on Tuesday, May 23, at Bettendorf with the home opener on Wednesday, May 24. The Trojans are home on Friday, May 26, as Davenport North visits for a non-conference sophomore/varsity pair of games. The Trojan varsity will take the field around 7 p.m.