The magical run that has been Van Meter baseball has officially ended with a Class 2A state championship. Even though it seems like a far distant second to the state crown, it is now time to release the 2019 All-West Central Activities Conference list.
Eight Bulldog baseball stars earned All-Conference honors including four first-team selections, two second-team selections, and two honorable mention honorees. For the title-winning Bulldogs, power bat Brett Berg leads off the first-team selections. It comes as no surprise that Berg encountered a near-unanimous selection as he ended up pacing the entire West Central Activities Conference in hits (60), doubles (19), RBI (53), batting average (.545), and slugging percentage (.800). While Berg entered the list as an infielder, he could have very well entered as a pitcher as he led the conference with a 0.82 ERA with 40 strikeouts and just six walks allowed.
Coming in as a first-team utility player, fellow junior Anthony Potthoff was a jack of many trades as well. Potthoff was Van Meter’s Friday night starter all season long and took the hill for the state title game, blanking a North Linn team who hadn’t suffered a shutout loss all season long. Through 47 innings pitched, Potthoff collected an ERA of 1.91 while dishing out 50 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks. Inside the batters’ box, Potthoff led the conference in runs scored having crossed the plate 50 times across the 2019 season. Potthoff’s 44 RBI ranks third in the conference behind only fellow Bulldogs Jacob Blomgren (53) and Brett Berg (53). Potthoff struck out just seven times all season long while hitting .407 and slugging at a clip of .610 with 17 extra-base hits. Both Potthoff and Berg have been instrumental components to the championship machine that is Van Meter baseball in 2019.
“One thing we’ve always been able to count on is Brett and Anthony delivering key hits for us this entire season,” said head coach Eben Baumhover. “Brett has a great swing through the zone and Potthoff has a great eye for the ball. Together they have been a huge 1-2 punch for us at the top of the lineup this season.”
Berg collected five hits, four RBI, and two walks across three state tournament games while Potthoff collected four hits, two RBI, and three walks in state tournament action.
Sophomores Zach Pleggenkuhle and Jacob Blomgren also earned first-team all-conference honors. Pleggenkuhle has been a spark plug and the table-setter for the Bulldogs all season long. He was consistently one of the top leadoff batters in the conference sporting an average of .374 while driving in 29 runs with seven doubles and four triples. Being the leadoff hitter always seemed to be in the blood for Pleggenkuhle and from day one he’s taken that responsibility with full force.
“It’s a very big deal to be the leadoff hitter every game and it’s been something I’ve always been grateful to do,” said Pleggenkuhle earlier in the season. “I know that I start things off for my team so I look to help my team out by making the pitcher work as much as possible. It’s really getting me and my team the chance to size up the pitcher and get a good start to the game.”
Pleggenkhule made it safely onto the base paths in all but one state tournament game and earned one of just a handful of triples that were struck during the tournament.
Jacob Blomgren has been a star in the making ever since he hit the high school scene and in 2019, he exploded onto the field and really produced for the Bulldogs, something coach Baumhover has been extremely pleased with.
“Jacob put in a lot of work over the offseason and really stepped up for us this season,” began Baumhover. “To accomplish what he has in just his sophomore year is extremely tough to do, especially if you haven’t played varsity ball before. He’s really taken the challenges he’s faced and overcame them and it’s been extremely fun to watch this season.”
Bomgren ended his state tournament run with three hits, five runs driven in, and one walk. Across the 2019 season, Blomgren had been tearing up conference pitching recording 36 RBI against West Central Activities Conference pitchers alone, the most inside conference play.
The two-second team selections for Van Meter belonged to freshman hurler Gannon Archer and senior outfielder Spencer Lamb. Archer was a phenomenal story in 2019 from the mound where he struck out 48 batters over 35 innings of work. All of that helped yield a 1.77 ERA the second-best mark out of any West Central Activities Conference freshman pitcher. Outfielder and senior leader Spencer Lamb was an integral part in the championship season with 39 hits and 31 RBI total on the season. Against conference foes, Lamb delivered on 25 hits and 22 RBI. Even though Lamb will be the only player departing from the championship team, it will be just as heavy of a loss considering all that he has done for Bulldog baseball.
“Spencer has always been a great leader and you could tell that across every sport he played,” began coach Baumhover. “Even with that said there was an even more positive change in him around the midway point in the season this season. He gives this team direction and takes charge and does everything a true leader should do. He may be just one person leaving us but man, it’ll be a huge loss for us and massive shoes to fill for next year.”
The two honorable mention honorees for Van Meter included Bryce Cole and Kolby Booge. Cole struck for a .241 batting average with 11 RBI’s and recorded a team-best 230 put outs on the year. Along with an RBI struck in the state tournament, Booge totaled 11 on the season with a batting average of .288.
Also to note, for his great efforts in just his first season as a head coach, Eben Baumhover himself, a stay at home dad and great baseball mind, was awarded Coach of the Year honor within the West Central Activities Conference. The ever modest coach Baumhover was quick to give some credit of his success to last leader coach Kennedy.
“I have to thank those who have helped me get to where I am today and that includes coach Kennedy,” said Baumhover. “We’ve been in constant contact with each other and it’s meant a lot to me to bounce ideas off of him.”