History was made under sunny skies to begin the month of August as the Van Meter baseball team took on the West Sioux Falcons in the Class 2A state semi-final game held at Principal Park.
Behind southpaw Zach Pleggenkuhle and his 17 strikeouts, Van Meter made their way to the state title game with a 3-0 win. Aside from a groundout to start the game, the best West Sioux could do was foul the ball off as Pleggenkhule proceeded to strike out the next 13 batters in a row. The sophomore southpaw added four more strikeouts to give him 17 for the game, the third-most strikeouts in a single state tournament game in Iowa high school history.
“Zach was really doing a good job of hitting his spots with his fastball today,” said head coach Eben Baumhover. “That allowed his offspeed stuff to be much more effective. It was an all-around great pitching performance from him. We expect great things out of Zach but today he went above and beyond.”
As for the offense, they were the biggest benefactors of the pitching performance as Van Meter totaled just four hits themselves. Even with one of their lowest single-game hit totals this season, the Bulldogs still managed to find the basepaths often, especially early on. The action really kicked off in the second inning beginning with a bunt-hit single by Spencer Lamb. Two walks and a sacrifice bunt later, Bulldogs flooded second and third base, ready for Cody Coffman to knock in his 17th RBI of the season. That gave Van Meter a 1-0 lead early.
The very next inning, Brett Berg made it a 2-0 Bulldog lead as he struck for his 53rd RBI, the second most across any individual in the Class 2A state tournament field. Not only did Van Meter now have a 2-0 lead, but they held West Sioux off the base paths without a single hit to speak of through four innings. The Falcons showed signs of life in the top half of the fifth inning with back-to-back singles but that’s all Pleggenkuhle and the Bulldog defense would allow. Even with a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, Van Meter did not break and the 2-0 lead held through.
Van Meter then turned that around and added in an insurance run on a Jacob Blomgren sacrifice fly to center, thus increasing the Bulldog lead 3-0. Two strikeouts in the final inning by Pleggenkhule helped the sophomore to end the game where he started. It was a pitching feat rarely seen before but it wasn’t until the game was over that the sophomore pitching star realized the gravity of his accomplishment.
“I actually had no idea I struck out 13 in a row,” said Pleggenkuhle. “I was just in the zone. It’s all about repeating the things you do well and that’s what I was trying to do out there.”
All that work helped the Bulldogs make it back to the title game for the first since 2003, which ironically was the last time Van Meter won a state baseball title.
“It may not have sunk in all that much right now but I’m sure it will later,” started coach Baumhover. “It’s an amazing feeling to win and to continue the season for one more game. That’s been the goal since day one.”
The Bulldogs now have the chance to capture their third state tournament title in program history when they take on North Linn in the Class 2A championship game Saturday, August 3. First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m.