After a first-round victory over Iowa City Regina on July 28, the Van Meter baseball team was put to the test against Beckman, Dyersville, the No. 2 seed in the 2014 state baseball tournament and the defending state champion. The Bulldogs had a 5-3 lead after scoring twice in the top of the fifth inning, but ultimately lost the game 8-5, seeing their state tournament run come to an end.
For the Bulldogs, this was the second year in a row that they lost in the semifinals, as they lost to Van Buren, Keosauqua 14-4 in last year’s state semifinals. First-year coach Mike Kennedy thought the Bulldogs accomplished a lot and exceeded expectations that people set for them this year.
“The way they played throughout the season… Just speaks to how consistent they were day in and day out with their preparation, with the effort they put on the field,” Kennedy said. “I couldn’t be happier with how they performed start to finish.
“Obviously, you never like to end like this but that’s (Beckman) a good team. They ended up making one more big inning than we did, so the only regret I have is that we didn’t win this game, didn’t have a chance for the seniors to go out and win a state championship.”
In the first inning, Brandon Brittain drilled the ball all the way to the wall in his first at bat for a triple, setting up the RBI by starting pitcher Jake Chevalier to give the Bulldogs the 1-0 lead. After falling in a 4-1 hole, the Bulldogs scored two runs in the third to bring them within one, and then took the lead back in the fifth inning when a two-RBI double by Drake Doud allowed Brittain and Chevalier to score.
“It felt good to be able to help the team out,” Doud said.
Beckman score four runs in the bottom half of the inning, however, to take their insurmountable 8-5 lead that eventually won them the game.
“We had a lot of close games and this was definitely one of them,” Doud said. “They gave it 100 percent, we gave it 100 percent. They pulled through, they did a good job, and so did we. We should be very proud of the effort we put in.”
Chevalier started the game on the mound and went three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. Brittain entered the game to relieve him and gave up two runs and picked up the loss. Logan Crawford also pitched in the game.
The Bulldogs will be losing nine seniors after this season. Brittain is one of them and led the team this year with a .516 batting average, 41 RBIs, nine home runs and three triples. He finished tied for second on the team in doubles with nine.
Colton Boswell, also a senior, led the team in doubles with 12 and was second on the team with 32 RBIs. Ben Engstrand, the catcher for most of this year, was right behind him with 31 RBIs.
Crawford had a team-high 24 stolen bases while Jacob Eslisk had 22.
Brittain finished the year with an 8-1 pitching record with a 1.63 ERA. Chevalier only started two games on the mound but was the winner in the substate final game for the Bulldogs.
Other seniors from this year’s team include: Grant Waller, Spencer Benton, Ben Flaherty and Ross Wesselmann.