Champs once more, Van Meter baseball sits atop the Class 2A world

Andrew Brown - Sports Reporter
Van Meter baseball players celebrating after capturing their second straight state title Saturday, Aug. 1.

In a season that began with title hopes, it ended with the title hardware as the Van Meter baseball team punched their way into the history books once more with their second straight state title. Thanks to six hits, four walks, and six uncharacteristic Des Moines Christian errors, Van Meter capped off the 2020 campaign the same way they concluded 2019, with a 6-0 victory for the state title.

“It’s a little bit of a relief, it’s been a long haul against a lot of great teams,” began Van Meter co-head coach Mike Kennedy. “You can’t say enough about these players. What tells me a lot about these players is that they’re together when they don’t need to be. A great group of guys who are always there for each other.”

From the very first inning, the game seemed to tilt towards Van Meter in the all West Central Activities Conference state title showdown. It all started on the bump for the Bulldogs that began what was another stellar day of pitching for senior Anthony Potthoff. The future DMACC star was methodical in his outing, striking out eight batters in his second complete game of the state tournament, let alone the 2020 season as a whole.

“The strike zone was a little difficult at times and sometimes the knees weren’t getting called so you had to put it in their wheelhouse,” said Potthoff. “Luckily for me when they did hit it, my fielders played amazing behind me.”

There was not a lot of production offensively against Potthoff from the opposing Lions. Des Moines Christian had just four hits against Potthoff all game long and only one of those four hits went for extra bases. It was another impressive showing by Potthoff but in the end, a lot had to do with adjustments.

“This is the first time he’s gone back-to-back and it’s pretty amazing that he was as sharp two games in a row,” said Kennedy. “I thought Des Moines Christian adjusted to his fastball after three or four innings and then he started relying more on his off-speed (pitches). Collectively, over the course of what he’s done for this program, you’re not going to find anyone better.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs set the tone early as well pushing across the first run of the game and it was ironically Potthoff who started it all in the bottom of the first. On a sacrifice fly, the senior picked up his first of three runs driven in for the game. Three innings later, the Bulldogs struck again as Bryce Cole’s 16th hit of the season and Zach Pleggenkuhle’s seventh double of the season helped to push across two more runs for a 3-0 lead.

From there, the Bulldogs kept touching up the scoreboard with one run in the fifth off of a Des Moines Christian error, and two runs in the sixth inning as Potthoff’s single pushed the lead up to 6-0. Overall offensively, six batters made up the six hits for Van Meter. Along with Pleggenkuhle, Cole, and Potthoff, Cody Coffman delivered on his 18th hit of the season while Ganon Archer and Jacob Blomgren added their 17th and 26th hits of the campaign respectively.

It was a strong outing from Potthoff both pitching and hitting but one that nearly didn’t finish on the mound due to the pitch count. Never-the-less, the senior hurler concluded his high school baseball tenure the way he wanted to…on the field.

“It felt like a big relief,” began Potthoff. “The pitch count was getting up there and I’m glad that I could stay in there and help my team win today.”

Of course, there was a third tier to the winning efforts from the Bulldogs. The fielding was nearly perfect and was highlighted by Blomgren’s day out in right field, something Potthoff was glad to have backing up his pitching performance.

“I cannot express how grateful I was to call on my right fielder today,” said Potthoff. “There were some plays that not a lot of people in Iowa could make and he made them look easy today.”

The win officially gives the Bulldogs a 23-2-1 record and gives the program its fourth overall state baseball title. It was a performance worthy of a state title and one that followed the game plan heading into the contest.

“We wanted to swing the bats (more) than we had last time against DMC and put a lot of pressure on their defense,” said senior catcher Bryce Cole.

The Bulldogs will conclude the 2020 campaign once again on top, the first such feeling for coach Kennedy directly but a great nod overall to the Van Meter players.

“It’s incredibly special,” said Kennedy. “They’re the ones driving the train. The culture of Van Meter, what type of people they are on and off the field, dictates what we were able to do offensively here today.”