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Van Meter baseball looks to shine in all West Central Activities Conference 2A title game

Andrew Brown - Sports Reporter

For the first time in summer state baseball history, the West Central Activities Conference will represent the entire Class 2A title game as the Van Meter Bulldogs take on the Des Moines Christian Lions Saturday, August 1.

Within the confines of Principal Park, fans will get quite a treat as the Bulldogs and the Lions battle for the 23rd time overall dating back to the 2009 campaign. This will be the first-ever battle between these two teams at the state tournament, in fact, it’s just the sixth time since 2009 that these teams have played in July or August.

“Every time we take on Des Moines Christian, we know it’s going to be a battle,” said Van Meter co-head coach Eben Baumhover earlier in the season. “They are so well-coached and do such a good job with the little things. It’s always an exciting game against them.”

If the 2020 regular season 1-0 battle didn’t prove how exciting this match-up can be, you don’t have to go too far back in time to find your proof. Out of the last ten battles between these two teams, five of the last ten games have ended in a three-run gap or less. It’s been a very strong season for both teams which just adds to what will undoubtedly be an exciting title game. Only one team was able to limit Van Meter’s offense (averaging 8.64 hits and 8.0 runs per game) to one run during the regular season and that was Des Moines Christian. Likewise, the Bulldogs were the only team to keep the Lions offense (averaging 7.5 hits and seven runs per game) from crossing home plate during a single game.

It’s a battle that will be worthy of being called a state title game as both teams are so evenly matched. Just 32 total hits separate these two teams who are nearly even in runs scored and runs allowed (Van Meter - 2.1 vs. Des Moines Christian - 2.7) per game. There is just a 43 RBI difference between Van Meter (159) and Des Moines Christian (116) while just four walks separate these two clubs.

“These two teams are very evenly matched nearly every season,” said Baumhover. “These types of battles are always fun to be apart of.”

Des Moines Christian leads Van Meter in stolen bases by just ten (55 to 45) while the Bulldogs edge out the Lions by just 15 assists (165-150).

What may separate these two teams the most could be patience at the plate overall. Both teams rank top-five in 2A in team ERA (Van Meter - 1.44 vs. Des Moines Christian 1.55). Overall that speaks to the strength of the conference as four WCAC teams will end the 2020 season ranked inside the top-five in team ERA. It truly will be two of the best pitching teams in Class 2A with Van Meter entering with 212 strikeouts dished on the year while Des Moines Christian follows closely behind with 197. Neither team’s pitching staffs have budged very often in 2020 with the Bulldogs holding teams to a .156 batting average while the Lions have dwarfed opposing hitters to a mere. 182 average.

For the Lions individually, the pitching duties will most likely rely on either Trey Castile or Kole Bradley. Both seniors have been in the 2A pitching spotlight all year and enter the title game with 64 and 63 strikeouts respectively, ranking second and third respectively across all Class 2A pitchers. Bradley has allowed the fewest earned runs among any pitcher that graced the 2A state tournament. For the Bulldogs, the most likely will be senior Anthony Potthoff. His 63 strikeouts tie Bradley and wield a 1.08 ERA.

Offensively, it will be a balanced attack by both teams and pitching will be tested. Van Meter alone has two individuals ranking top-ten in 2A in hits as Brett Berg’s 29 hits rank eighth and Zach Pleggenkuhle’s 30 hits are tied for fourth overall. Berg will once again be looked on for RBI work as he comes in ranked fourth in 2A with 28 RBI on the season.

This will be the ninth trip to Principal and fourth overall trip to the title game for Van Meter while Des Moines Christian is taking on their second overall state tournament appearance. The battle will take place with first pitch set for 1:30 p.m.