In the end, the steely old veteran coach, the man with more victories to his name than anyone else in prep baseball history, just couldn't keep up with the juggernaut program his team was facing. Not this time, at least.
That was the abridged storyline at the Iowa Class A state baseball championship on Saturday. With a national record 86-game hitting streak on the line, Martensdale (Iowa) St. Mary High knocked off Lansing (Iowa) Kee High, 8-3. The victory ensured that the Blue Devils finished the season undefeated, with their record winning streak now at an astounding 87 games.
"This is what we set out to do and we did it," Blue Devils pitcher and outfielder Ethan Westphal told the Des Moines Register. "I guess it's a sigh of relief that we got it."
The victory wasn't as dramatic for Martensdale-St. Mary's as the dramatic nail biters that preceded it in the state quarterfinals and semifinals, both of which were one-run victories for the Blue Devils. Still, MSM fell behind in the second inning of the title game and looked to be facing a third consecutive surprising challenge.
Instead, the undefeated Devils tied the game in the fourth and then broke things open in the fifth, knocking in five runs against Kee Hawk reliever Jon Heiderscheit, the very pitcher who proved dominant in the state semifinals just days earlier.
"We had four pretty good innings," Kee coach Gene Schultz told the Register. "They're just a tough, tough, lineup. They hit the ball well."
Schultz's comments were a fitting epitaph for a team that became the first to enter the state playoffs with 40 or more victories since his own Kee team's of 1991 and 1992. To get those comments from the winningest prep baseball coach in history speaks volumes as well.
How would such a prep baseball dynamo celebrate a title that is sure to resonate in the state history books for years to come? With a unique triumvirate of flips, as it turns out. You can see one of the full flips described in the Register passage below in question in the highlight clip above.
Three members of Blue Devils' team — brothers Robert and David Walker and teammate Dillon Coates — celebrated the final out, a strikeout by Westphal, by doing flips.
The three, along with Westphal, planned the final act in the dugout before taking the field for their last three outs of the season.
"We were trying to find something new and kind of hip to do," said Westphal, who matched a state tournament record with former Kee pitcher Kip Peters with eight career victories.