Three-peat within Beckman’s reach after semifinal win over Van Meter

By K.J. Pilcher, The Gazette

DES MOINES — Dyersville Beckman’s reign continues for at least one more game.

Van Meter gave its best effort to dethrone the defending champions.

Second-seeded Beckman defeated No. 3 Van Meter, 8-5, last night in the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A state baseball semifinals at Principal Park. The Blazers remain in contention for a third straight state championship.

Beckman moved on to its 12th state final and 11th under Blazers Coach Tom Jenk. It is the seventh since 2000. Beckman is looking for its sixth baseball crown in school history and fifth with Jenk at the helm.

“It’s as exciting as the first,” Beckman senior Mitch Steger said. “We worked just as hard as the first two squads that did this. We’re excited to keep the tradition alive.”

With both teams seemingly exchanging jabs and haymakers, the Blazers landed a knocked out blow with a four-run fifth.

Facing a 5-4 deficit, Beckman batted its entire lineup, taking an 8-5 lead. Tyler Knepper and Ben Loeffelholz reached third and second, respectively, on a pass ball. Both scored when a throw home by Van Meter’s second baseman skipped to the backstop. Loeffelholz relied on his instincts on the base paths to lead to the winning run.

“I didn’t know if he was going to throw to first,” Loeffelholz said. “He threw it home, it got past and I kept running.”

Steger followed with an RBI double and then scored on a Conner Klostermann groundout, putting the Blazers up for good.

Steger and Klostermann helped lead the way for Beckman. Steger was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Klostermann had two hits and drove in two runs.

They also played a key role in a three-run second when Beckman took its first lead at 4-1.

The Blazers (29-13) tallied four hits. Loeffelholz and Eric Boeckenstedt sparked the outburst with consecutive base hits, advancing to third and second when right fielder Drake Doud misplayed the ball. Steger followed with a two-run single and then scored on Klostermann’s base hit, making it 4-1.

“They just don’t give up,” Jenk said. “They understand the game mentally and they realize that there are going to be some mistakes made out there and it’s who recovers the quickest and who doesn’t compound those mistakes.

“ Our guys just never give up and you saw that tonight.”

Van Meter managed 1-0 lead in the first inning. Brandon Brittain drove a ball off the left-center field wall that bounced past Steger in center, allowing Brittain to get his third triple of the season. He scored when Jake Chevalier reached on an error.

Beckman tied it in the bottom half, getting back-to-back singles from Tony Anstoetter and Klostermann. Anstoetter scored on the two-out hit from Riley Vorwald.

Van Meter cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the third. Jake Eslick and Zach Forret led off with hits. Brittain walked and Eslick scored on Chevalier’s fielder’s choice. Colton Boswell added an RBI double to bring in Forret.

The Bulldogs looked to gain control late, getting a two-run single from Doud for a 5-4 lead in the fifth. Van Meter ended the season 32-3 and reached the 2A state tournament for the first time, moving up a class after reaching the 1A semifinals last season.

Beckman will face a familiar foe in the 2A title game Saturday at 2 p.m. The Blazers and top-seeded North Polk (31-5) will meet in the finals for the third straight year.

The Comets scored three runs in each of the first two innings, recording a 6-2 win over Roland-Story in the other 2A semifinal. Cole Jackson led North Polk with three RBIs.

North Polk reached its fifth championship game overall with its 11th consecutive win, but is looking for its first title.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@sourcemedia.net

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