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Iowa City High pitcher leads young team

BY TOM GOLDHAMMER | JUNE 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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City High junior Sam Mrstik's all-around performance paved the way for an 8-5 Little Hawk victory over Cedar Rapids Xavier on Monday.

A slight yet consistent breeze aided two rare Mercer Park home runs, including one from Mrstik that provided the final runs for City High's lead.

"I didn't think it was gone," he said about his first roundtripper of the season. "I got ahead in the count, so I was just looking for a fastball."

Mrstik overcame a sloppy first inning for City High that saw Xavier score 3 unearned runs on two costly Little Hawk errors. He settled down rapidly and rebuilt the team's defensive morale with his pitching. Mrstik allowed only 6 hits the rest of the way and finished with 5 strikeouts and just 1 walk in six innings pitched.

The City High defense tightened up after the first, and the help from the field gave Mrstik everything he needed to cruise through the Saints' lineup. Establishing an effective fastball early led to Mrstik being able to keep the Saints hitters guessing when he changed speeds.

Assistant coach Bart Sueppel said he needed to see fight from his players after the error-riddled opening inning.

"You have to be able to bounce back when you give a team 3 runs," he said. "Good teams come back, and keep on dealing with adversity, and overcome what they've given up."

Sueppel praised Mrstik's effort and role in the comeback. The pitcher acted as a calming agent on the mound and brought the team back to focus.

"He kept the ball down in the zone, and they didn't hurt him," Sueppel said. "For the most part, he threw a really good baseball game."

Mrstik's work didn't stop when he was off the mound. He finished the day 2-for-3 in the batter's box with 2 runs scored. His home run in the sixth inning wasn't his only good at bat — Mrstik helped himself out with a one-out triple in the bottom of the third. It didn't take long to score — he came home on a wild pitch during the next at-bat.

Fellow junior Tyler Stika, who caught Mrstik, said Mrstik's performance, like pitching on any level, came down to finding a groove and keeping the momentum on City High's side.

"We kept hitting the [strike]zone early and often and then started to mix up speeds late to throw off the [batters'] timing," Stika said.

Mrstik is an upperclassman on a young team — the Little Hawks have only one senior in the starting line up. But they're consistently leading the Mississippi Division in the Mississippi Valley.

Their youth routinely keeps games close down to the finish, but the Little Hawks excel in scratching and clawing their way through games.

Mrstik helps the team with these fight-to-the-end victories. His success on the mound and aggressiveness at the plate sets an example for the rest of the team.

"We really feed off of each other. You can never point at just one thing… there are always two or three things or points in a baseball game that lead to the result," Sueppel said. "I have trust in our players. They'll make the play."


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