DES MOINES | One error helped Remsen St. Mary’s tie its Class 1A state baseball tournament quarterfinal game against Van Meter on Saturday night, but two errors broke the knot.
Van Meter scored what proved to be the winning run on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the top of the sixth inning by Jake Eslick that resulted in two errors and handed Remsen St. Mary’s its first opening-round loss since 1981 with a 6-4 setback at Principal Park.
A few minutes and one-half inning earlier, the Hawks (25-9) forged a 4-all tie on a single and an error. Nate Roder’s two-out single to right field drove in Tyler Delperdang. Van Meter right fielder Kurt Sankey charged the ball, but it bounced off his shoe and that allowed Colin Schroeder, the courtesy runner for catcher Brady Harpenau, to follow Delperdang across the plate. Harpenau had reached on a fielder’s choice.
The guy who scored the big run for Van Meter? Sankey, who re-entered the game after pinch hitter Ross Wesselmann struck out but reached first base after Harpenau could not field the ball after pitcher Matt Wesselmann’s seventh of his nine strikeouts. Errors by Roder at third base and right fielder Travis Schroeder allowed the run to score.
“I always knew we’d come back strong,” Sankey said about his error. “I always knew we could get those runs back, but that feeling was awful.”
Sankey said he was concerned about chins and spirits staying up in the Bulldogs’ dugout. Two of the five errors Saturday by Remsen St. Mary’s did the trick.
“I’m glad they had those wild throws that went everywhere,” Sankey said. “I’m just glad the way it came out.”
Because it came out in Van Meter’s favor, the Bulldogs (34-8) advanced to Thursday’s semifinal round against the winner of Saturday’s late game between Don Bosco of Gilbertville and Van Buren of Keosauqua.
Looking at numbers, it was hard to picture Matt Wesselmann as the losing pitcher. He had the nine strikeouts – raising his season total to 101 – and he threw 21 first-pitch strikes. He just didn’t have enough timely support. The Hawks had six hits, including two by Wesselman.
“We just didn’t put together a complete ballgame,” Wesselmann said. “We had five errors, we had timely hits but we didn’t have enough of them and we didn’t score enough runs to win.”
Roder added, “We needed people to back (Wesselmann) up.”
Van Meter scored in the first and added three more in the third inning, but the Hawks began scratching back with Delperdang’s sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single by Andrew Pottebaum in the third. The tie came in the bottom of the fifth.
The Bulldogs used three pitchers, but one pitch by initial reliever Cory Blackwell in the third and one by Brandon Brittain in the fifth might have saved the win for Van Meter, making its first appearance in the state meet since winning a state title at Carroll in 2003. Blackwell came in with the bases loaded in the third and got Ross Arens on a swinging third strike. Brady Portz, the pinch runner for Arens in the fifth, was at third base when Brittain got Jeremiah Lewis swinging to end the latest Remsen St. Mary’s threat.
“Just keeping our heads up and staying in the game when errors happen. Overcoming everything and coming together as a team,” Brittain said.
Roder said the Bulldog pitchers were not doing anything to throw off the Hawk batters.
“Not anything that I noticed. Blackwell was a little faster, but he was easily hittable,” Roder said. “We lost a lot of our hitters last year, all of the seniors were pretty solid hitters. We came in this year with not very many strong hitters, so we’ve had to play small ball and get good timely hitting. Tonight just didn’t work out.”