It’s not often that you see a ten run drop from one game to the next for Van Meter baseball but Tuesday night the top-ranked Class 2A team was dwarfed offensively yet still came out on top of a 1-0 thriller over seventh-ranked Des Moines Christian.
Both teams descended upon the Van Meter baseball field looking for a win with plenty of offense to back them up. For the visiting Lions, they were fresh off of a 6-0 victory over Pleasantville and came into Tuesday’s battle averaging nearly seven hits per game and eight runs per contest. The host Bulldogs were in a similar boat, fresh off of an 11-0 win over Earlham and entering Tuesday’s action averaging nearly ten hits and nine runs per contest. Both offenses were stifled Tuesday night as just six combined hits and one run made up the entire offensive output from both teams. A trail of zeros lit up the scoreboard all the way into the seventh inning, giving the host Bulldogs one last chance to play hero and they capitalized, earning their fourth straight win over Des Moines Christian and 16th overall victory against the Lions since the 2009 campaign. It was a hard fought victory for Van Meter but it was an outcome that wasn’t unexpected.
“I don’t think there was a time in the dugout throughout the game where there was doubt that we would (win),” said Van Meter co-head coach Eben Baumhover. “That’s exactly what you need to have in order to be successful in baseball and in life. You’ve got to understand that you’ve got opportunities to get guys on base and and do the little things it takes to win and our guys do that.”
Just three hits accounted for the offensive production across both teams through six innings of play Tuesday night. A first and a fourth inning single accounted for both of Des Moines Christian’s hits while Van Meter’s lone hit prior to the seventh inning came on Bryce Cole’s ninth hit of the season in the bottom half of the third. Cole ended up finishing 1-for-2 on the night but did continue his on base streak as he now rests with an on-base mark of .556.
The line of zero’s stared both teams in the face most of the game which set the stage for the action to really pick up in the final two innings of the game. Des Moines Christian threatened in the top half of the sixth with a runner in scoring position but couldn’t push across a run. Then Van Meter stepped up in the bottom of the seventh and made the most of any opportunity thrown their way beginning with a Jack Pettit single turned double via error to begin the do-or-die bottom of the seventh. Across a sacrifice bunt, an intentional walk, and a fielders choice, the Bulldogs found there way into a situation that escaped them for six full innings as runners stood in scoring position.
The tension was high but as the Bulldog lineup turned toward the number six spot, the chance for a win fell on senior Kolby Booge who accepted the challenged and played the role of hero. A well placed sacrifice bunt ended up plating Anthony Potthoff from third base and sending hometown crowd back happy with a victory.
“We knew exactly what we were going to do once I got up there, we work on it every day in practice so I got up there and it was just expected,” said Booge after the victory. “The coaches didn’t even give us the sign, Anthony Potthoff and I knew exactly what we were going to do and it ended up working out well for us.”
While the bunt ended up being well placed, it’s time in the air left many nervous including Booge.
“I froze for a second and I thought “well, that could ruin it” but it got down and worked out great,” said Booge.
It indeed turned out in favor of the Bulldogs who still reside without a loss on the season. On the mound, Cody Coffman came out picking up the win from his seventh inning performance. Much ground work on the mound was laid by junior Zach Pleggenkuhle nearly went the distance against a stingy Des Moines Christian offense. Pleggenkuhle posted six innings of scoreless baseball, striking out six and walking four, now giving him 29 on the season, a top-five mark across Class 2A pitchers.
“He’ll be the first to tell you he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in the past but he got his breaking ball over and just made pitches when he had to,” said Baumhover. “He really grinded it out tonight which is hard to do against a good hitting team like Des Moines Christian.”
The Bulldogs now boost their overall record to 10-0-1 with their sights set on even more wins coming up. Next on the docket will be a road doubleheader with Madrid on Thursday, July 2.