It may have been a different look than last years’ state tournament run, but the Van Meter baseball team got the job done just the same, capturing a 3-1 win over West Lyon in the semifinal round to clinch a repeat berth to the state title game.
Within the confines of Principal Park Thursday, July 30, fans witnessed timely hitting and a strong pitching performance by Zach Pleggenkule to combine in the victory. The junior dished out 11 strikeouts to a Wildcat team that averaged just four strikeouts per contest heading into the day.
“Early in the game it was just working outside depending on the batter,” began Pleggenkuhle. “Then it turned more into just getting ahead with the pitch count going up. I just knew I had to get ahead of them late in the game and that was a big part of it.”
Today’s outing for the junior just continued the strong push he’s been on over the course of the past two seasons. Dating back to the 2019 state semifinal battle, Pleggenkuhle has dished out 26 strikeouts while allowing just four hits and absolutely no earned runs through 14 innings of work.
“He (Zach) believes in his stuff, trusts what he does, and expects the outcome to go his direction every time,” said Bulldog co-head coach Eben Baumhover.
Last season, the Bulldogs scored 20 runs through the first two state tournament games. This season, they touched up just four but they’ve been crucial. In the 2020 edition of the semifinal battle, Van Meter used six hits and the help of five walks issued to produce three runs in the win. Overall the vast majority of the offense for both teams came in the third inning of play. West Lyon actually jumped out first on the scoreboard but it came unearned as Cody Coffman suffered a rare fielding error. The Bulldogs answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of Jacob Blomgren’s 25th hit of the season.
That score held strong all the way until Van Meter added another insurance in the bottom of the fifth. Overall it was a game in which Van Meter had to find multiple routes to the base paths and they did courtesy of five walks, six hits, and two batters who were hit by pitch. The second of two Bulldog batters hit by pitch (Ganon Archer) came with a bases-loaded situation and thus gave Van Meter a 3-1 cushion heading into the rest of the game. Following West Lyon’s offense in the third, Pleggenkuhle pretty much silenced the Wildcat offense to just two hits and a pair of base runners the rest of the game. That helped Van Meter punch their ticket to a second straight state title game.
“It feels amazing and I’m glad we pushed through down one in the first couple innings,” said Blomgren. “We hit the ball fairly well and our pitcher pitched a great game.”
Along with Bomgren, Anthony Potthoff had a strong outing going 2-for-3 at the plate. The rest of the hits came from Kolby Booge, Ganon Archer, and Bryce Cole.
The win bumps Van Meter’s record up to 22-2-1 and sets them up in the state title game on Saturday, August 1. The Bulldogs will be presented with an intriguing matchup either way as they will either face a West Central Activities Conference state title game against Des Moines Christian or a repeat title match-up against North Linn.