Heartbreak has become commonplace in the last two years for the Van Meter baseball program, but the efforts to turn that around are paying off so far this season as the Bulldogs are flying high and are the No. 2 1A team in the state of Iowa with Mason City Newman being the only team ranked ahead of them.
VM coach Eric Trudo said the rankings aren’t what matters.
"That’s rankings and what matters for us is the end of the year and being at Principal Park," Trudo said.
Junior Brandon Brittain said that the difference between this year and previous years is that they are more into it this year.
"In game and out of game we’re focused on the sport and nothing else," Brittain said.
On Monday the Bulldogs had a conference meeting with West Central Valley, a team they beat on May 23 14-1. The Bulldogs didn’t have as easy of a time with them the second time around but still secured an 8-4 victory.
"It’s always tougher the second time through the conference and West Central Valley’s been playing really well lately so other than a few miscues defensively we played well, we stuck together offensively and we always enjoy the victories," Trudo said.
The Bulldogs didn’t start hot as they only had one hit in the first three innings and were down 3-0 going into the bottom of the fourth. The fourth inning, however, was a five-run inning for the Bulldogs.
"This whole season we’ve been hitting the crap out of the ball and it was only a matter of time," said Brittain. "Yeah, we came out a little sluggish, we took it light on the team and then we came back and started hitting the ball and driving runs in."
The go-ahead run came off of a home run by junior Drake Doud in the fourth inning. Brittain, Jake Chevalier, Ben Flaherty and Cody Blackwell also scored runs in the monster inning for the Bulldogs.
Cody Blackwell started the game on the mound and struck out six batters and gave up four runs en route to getting the win.
Brittain, who is leading the state in home runs with 12, and RBIs with 38 was fairly silent offensively going 0-for-2, scoring one run and being walked and hit by a pitch. He did, however, start the game at shortstop and then strike out the side to end the game in the seventh inning.
"He’s just willing to do whatever we ask him to do and when you have a player like that that’s willing to do that then everyone else follows suit," Trudo said.
The result of Monday’s game was an example of the Bulldogs being able to win even in games when Brittain isn’t producing the big numbers he’s been accustomed to producing this season.
"A team isn’t just one person and it kind of showed that tonight offensively," said Trudo. "We had some other guys come up with huge hits. Drake Doud, Jake Chevalier and Ben Flaherty, you can go down our lineup and we hit the ball pretty well up and down."
Chevalier was 4-for-4 with two runs scored and Engstrand drove in a pair of runs.
The Bulldogs kept going strong the next game blowing out Woodward Academy 20-1 on Tuesday. Falherty, Engstrand and Ross Wesselmann scored three runs apiece and Jacob Eslick, Chevalier and Kurt Sankey had three RBIs apiece. Van Meter pushed across seven runs in the first, five in the second and eight in the third.
On Wednesday, June 12 the Bulldogs suffered their second loss of the season in Pleasantville by a score of 9-5. The Bulldogs bounced back the next day and blew out Panorama 15-0.
In their game against Pleasantville pitcher Ben Engstrand gave up six runs in just three innings on the mound and only struck out one batter. In their game against Panorama, which only lasted four innings, Brittain went 1-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs and Sankey also added a home run and two RBIs.