CEDAR FALLS – The Waterloo West baseball team is loaded with talent and experience.
The senior-laden Wahawks proved that with an impressive bounce-back performance against a top-notch opponent.
West erupted for 17 hits to spoil the home opener for Cedar Falls as the Wahawks rolled to a 16-6 victory Wednesday night at Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex.
West senior Ben Melcher pitched six solid innings and also scored four runs in the battle between local rivals in a Mississippi Valley Conference showdown.
The Wahawks improved to 3-1 while defeating the Tigers for the second time this season.
“This is a great rivalry and Cedar Falls has a very good team,” West coach Nate Lamphier said. “It was a great atmosphere for this game. Our senior leadership is really important for us and it showed in this game.”
West edged Cedar Falls 4-3 last week in the Metro tournament finals before the Tigers edged the Wahawks 9-8 on Tuesday night at West.
Class 4A No. 9 Cedar Falls, a state qualifier in 2020, dropped to 3-3.
Starting pitcher Max Steinlage returned to the lineup for Cedar Falls after being sidelined with an injury. He started strong before running into trouble in the second inning.
The Tigers have been plagued by injuries this season.
“West had 17 base hits and did a good job putting the bat on the ball,” Cedar Falls coach Brett Williams said. “They’re a great team and we’ve known that. They were disciplined and it paid off for them. We fought and tried to get back in the game – we just couldn’t get that big hit we needed.”
The Wahawks broke the game open early, tacking five runs on the board in the top of the second inning. Dylan Alcorn delivered an RBI single to highlight the early outburst.
West standout Carter Schulte followed by lining a two-run single to center field in the third inning. Schulte also scored three runs.
Wahawk senior Brady O’Connor delivered a two-run single in the sixth inning. O’Connor finished with three hits and knocked in four runs.
“He is like the guy in the major leagues who does everything really well,” Lamphier said. “He doesn’t have the power of some of the other guys, but he’s seeing the ball well and he’s starting to come around. He’s a good kid and he’s fundamentally sound at the plate and in the field.”
Melcher survived a shaky start on the mound to earn the win. He allowed three of the first four batters he faced to reach base. He pitched a scoreless second and third while the Wahawk offense provided him with a huge cushion.
“I started off a little rough and was just trying to find my command,” Melcher said. “I knew I had to go out there and throw strikes against a good Cedar Falls team. I knew if I did my job, we could beat them.
“Our offense did a great job giving me a big lead. We were so excited to get back on the field after losing to them. The sky’s the limit for this team. We have a chance to have a great season.”
Melcher went six innings and allowed just four hits before junior Nolan McCann replaced him. McCann retired three straight batters, including striking out the first two.
Lamphier was impressed with Melcher’s start.
“We challenged Ben – we needed a big answer out of him,” Lamphier said. “We weren’t sharp at all (Tuesday) – I think we had 12 walks. Ben came through in a big way. That’s what seniors do. We really needed that.”
Cedar Falls senior Connor Woods crushed a pair of solo homers one night after hitting his first varsity home run on Tuesday.
“Connor is a testament to hard work,” Williams said. “He was in the weight room all year and really made himself into a great player. It looks like he’s swinging at beach balls right now. Those were great swings.”