For the Class 2A State Baseball Quarterfinals, the Van Meter Bulldogs took on the Kuemper Catholic Knights. After a hard-fought game, the Bulldogs came up just short, falling 5-3 to the Knights.
The Bulldogs started the game strong by only allowing the Knights’ Ben Berg to get on base, but then tagging him out when he tried to steal second base.
Although the first inning for the Bulldogs began with an out at first base, JJ Durflinger came back to hit a triple. Drew Gordon followed Durflinger, and with his hit, he got Durflinger back home. Unfortunately, Gordon was tagged out at first base and was followed by a strikeout to end the inning.
The Bulldogs started the game ahead (1-0) after scoring the first run.
In the second inning, the Bulldogs allowed one Knight to walk to base, which was followed a double hit by Michael Mohr. The Bulldogs’ pitcher, Anthony Lowman, was able to strike out the next two batters to end the inning before either Knight could score.
Bulldog Carson Rhodes was the only batter to get on base in the second inning. Unfortunately, while Brady O’Brien was up to bat, Rhodes was thrown out at second while trying to steal.
The second inning ended with the Bulldogs still leading 1-0.
The Knights came back in the third inning. Cole Uhlemkamp was the first up to bat, he hit a single to start the inning. After an out, Uhlemkamp stole second while Ben Berg was up to bat. Ben Berg then hit a single allowing Uhlemkamp to make it to third.
The Knights’ pitcher, Tyler Laing, followed Ben Berg’s hit with a triple allowing both Uhlemkamp and Ben Berg to make it back home.
After a strikeout and Kyle Berg being walked to base, Michael Mohr was up to bat. Both Laing and Kyle Berg tried stealing base while Mohr was batting. Kyle Hugeback (Laing’s courtesy runner) was able to make it home, but Kyle Berg was rundown while trying to make it to second base ending the inning.
The Knights now led the game 3-1 and the Bulldogs weren’t able to come back in the bottom of the inning with their first three batters being called out.
Lowman was able to strikeout the Knights’ first three batters in the fourth inning to immediately put them on offense. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs’ first three batters were also called out and the scored remained at 3-1.
“I thought our combined pitching performance by Anthony Lowman and Drew Gordon was excellent,” said coach Mike Kennedy. “There were a couple of pitches that their guys hit hard and that happens, you’re not going to be perfect for a whole game. But for the most part, if you look at the pitching line, they struck out 12 of our guys and we struck out 12 of their guys, I think we walked three and they walked two, they were just able to push a couple more runs across than we did. I think pitch-for-pitch we were right with them.”
The Bulldogs were able to continue the streak in the fifth inning, only allowing Izak Baumhover a hit, but tagging him out when he tried to make it to second on an error.
Sam Thompson and Carson Rhodes started the Bulldogs’ half of the inning strong with a single (Thompson) and a double (Rhodes). Thompson then scored after stealing home while O’Brien was batting.
O’Brien wasn’t able to get to base after his hit, but was followed by a base hit by Kaleb Booge. Booge’s hit allowed Rhodes to score, tying up the game.
Mitch Pomeroy and Durflinger were able to get on base as well, but when Connor Guess struck out, and Pomeroy was tagged out at second base, the inning ended 3-3.
The game didn’t stay tied for long. The Knights immediately came back in the sixth inning with three singles.
Laing, Rease Snyder and Kyle Berg were the three Knights to hit singles and load the bases right away. It looked as though the Bulldogs might be able to stop the Knights when they struck out the next two batters, but then Dawson McDermott hit another single.
McDermott’s hit allowed both Hugeback and Snyder to score. After a final strikeout, the inning ended with the Knights leading 5-3.
The Knights then got the first three Bulldog batters out to end the sixth inning.
“I thought we battled throughout the game,” Kennedy said, “we faced a really tough pitcher, Tyler Laing. We had the approach that we weren’t going to help him out, we were going to work deep in the count and I though we did that. We were able to get him out of the game by the sixth inning. We had some good at bats against him, hit the ball hard at guys, I mean we did strikeout nine times against him, but I thought for the most part, our guys executed the approach. He’s just a really good pitcher, so congrats to him.”
In the final inning, Laing was the only Knight to get on base with a double. Both Rhodes and Pomeroy were able to get on base for the Bulldogs after being walked. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to score before the game ended and the Knights won 5-3.
“We saw an opportunity in seventh inning with two guys on, we just weren’t able to push those around,” said Kennedy.” “Our defense was outstanding, the pitchers executed well, we gave ourselves a chance to win the State Tournament and that’s all you can really ask for. I think top to bottom, one through nine, our guys had good at bats even when we struck out, or you know, hit a ball hard at somebody, we still had good at bats throughout the game. I’m pretty proud of our guys, top to bottom.”
The Bulldogs ended their season with a strong 30-5 season record.
“This group has been together basically for three years,” Kennedy said, “we lost 10 or 11 seniors after that last State Tournament trip in 2014 and they’ve gotten better every year as a group. They went 26-10 and lost in the substate finals, they went 27-5 and lost in the substate finals, and this year to go 30-5 with an even better record and make it to that State Tournament shows how hard they worked over the last three years and stayed the course and stayed together to make it to the State Tournament.”