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Bulldogs take down St. Mary’s in state quarterfinal

Clint Cole/DCN Cody Blackwell pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to help Van Meter beat St. Mary’s of Remsen 6-4 on July 27.Buy Photo
Clint Cole/DCN Cody Blackwell pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to help Van Meter beat St. Mary’s of Remsen 6-4 on July 27.
Sam Martin/DCN Van Meter coach Eric Trudo talks to his players before the start of the Bulldogs’ game against St. Mary’s of Remsen on July 27.Buy Photo
Sam Martin/DCN Van Meter coach Eric Trudo talks to his players before the start of the Bulldogs’ game against St. Mary’s of Remsen on July 27.

DES MOINES — Van Meter scored twice in the sixth — without the benefit of a hit — to pull past St. Mary’s of Remsen 6-4 in the state quarterfinal at Principal Park on July 27.

Kurt Sankey reached on a dropped third strike to start the inning and came around to score on a bizarre, two-error play. The next hitter, Jake Eslick, laid down a sacrifice bunt, and the subsequent throw to first sailed down the right-field line. The throw back into the infield missed its mark, allowing Sankey to score and Eslick to end up at third base.

Logan Crawford followed with a sacrifice fly, pushing the lead to 6-4.

St. Mary’s had tied the game at four in the fifth inning, aided by three Van Meter errors in what was a sloppy defensive game on both sides.

“Staying up when we were down” was important, Sankey said. “I had those two errors and I was beyond mad. First state game and that happens.

“But I was definitely glad that our bats kept up. Our bats have been strong the whole season.”

Van Meter scored once in the first on an RBI single by Brandon Brittain, and added three more in the third. Brittain singled home Crawford and Ben Engstrand and scored on a Hawks error.

Coach Eric Trudo stressed the importance of working through the mistakes and limiting damage.

“I talked about damage control — we’re playing a good team, and we’re going to have to limit the runs they score off of that,” he said. “We’ve got to play damage control and we were able to do that for the most part. If you can keep the crooked numbers off the scoreboard, that’s a good thing.”

Zach Prouty started on the mound for the Bulldogs and lasted 2 2/3 innings. Cody Blackwell entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the third and struck out Nate Roder to end thre threat.

After pitching a scoreless fourth, Blackwell was replaced by Brittain, who picked up the win. He struck out four, walked one, allowed three hits and surrendered only the two unearned runs.

“Errors will come, errors will happen,” Brittain said. “You just have to come back and fight after those things happen.”

Brittain recorded two of the team’s seven hits. Engstrand was 2-for-3, reaching base three times and scoring twice.

“I was more nervous getting here, playing in that substate game,” Brittain said. “This is the time where you’re in the top eight teams. You’ve just got to play relaxed.”

Trudo echoed those sentiments.

“We talked a lot this week about how, obviously, the venue has changed, but it’s still baseball,” he said. “We have to go out there and figure out a way to win and advance. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what we did.”

Van Meter will square off against third-seed Van Buren on Thursday at 2 p.m. Van Buren outlasted Don Bosco 6-5 in its eight-inning quarterfinal.

“We have to play better defense than we did (against St. Mary’s) because the competition’s only going to get better when we’re down to the final four teams,” Trudo said.

“Hopefully we can get some practice in between now and then and put it together next Thursday, because you have to get to the championship before you worry about winning one.”

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