After coming one run short of reaching the state tournament each of the last two years, the Bulldogs broke through last night with an 8-0 victory over West Marshall(29-7) at Marshalltown. Ten members of the current team were on the 2015 team and twelve members of the team were on the 2016 team that came up just short. Timely hitting, a solid pitching performance, and a great defensive effort helped Van Meter put together a complete team effort that has them reaching the state tournament for the third time in the past five seasons.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning in which Anthony Lowman struck out two of three hitters he faced, the Bulldogs had men on first and second with one out in the bottom half, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. West Marshall responded in the top of the second with the first two batters of the inning reaching. Lowman worked out of the jam inducing two flyouts and striking out his third batter of the game. The momentum appeared to be shifting in West Marshall’s favor as the Bulldog offense went quietly in the bottom of the 2nd inning. In the top of the third, the top of West Marshall’s batting order loaded the bases with two outs. A foul pop pulled in by catcher Carson Rhodes ended the threat.
The tide of the game turned in the bottom of the third. A one out double by Connor Guess started things off. A single by JJ Durflinger scored Guess from second base on a close play at the plate. After a Drew Gordon walk and a Lowman single, the bases were loaded with Bulldogs. Carson Rhodes fouled off two pitches before hitting a hard ground ball to third base. The throw to first base sailed over the first basemen’s head scoring Durflinger and Gordon to extend the lead to 3-0. Brady O’Brien hit the next pitch high behind second base. A misplay by the shortstop allowed Lowman and Rhodes to score giving the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead at the end of three innings. A 1-2-3 top of the fourth inning from the Bulldog defense and three more runs in the bottom of the fourth sealed the fate of the game. Gordon executed a sac fly, Sam Thompson an RBI single, and Lowman scored after an errant throw as he stole third base. The 8-0 score would hold through the final three innings as the Bulldogs had runners reach base in the fifth and sixth innings but were unable to add to the lead.
Lowman retired 6 of the final 7 batters he faced finishing with a line of four hits, six strikeouts, two walks, and no runs. Gordon pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to close out the game striking out two of the three batters he faced. The combined shutout for Lowman and Gordon was the first suffered this season by the high powered West Marshall offense. Ross Randall took the loss for West Marshall, the first of the season for the senior standout. The Bulldogs eight runs(three earned), six hits, and eight walks were all highs on the season for teams facing Randall. The Bulldogs five strikeouts were the fewest Randall recorded in a start on the season as well.
The first round of the 2A state tournament is on Monday at Principal Park. The 30-4 Bulldogs are awaiting their opponent, as one 2A game was postponed to Wednesday, at the time this article was published.