When it comes to big games, few can challenge the face off being served up by Iowa's Class A state championship game on Saturday. Just consider the two teams involved:
On one side stands Martensdale (Iowa) St. Mary's High, winner of a national record 86 straight games. On the other is Lansing-New Albin (Iowa) Kee High, whose coach -- Gene Schulz -- owns more prep baseball victories than anyone else in history.
Only one team can win, but no matter who does, the Class A title game will be a historic occasion.
"We're refusing to lose right now and we want to keep things going," Martensdale-St. Marys coach Justin Dehmer told the Des Moines Register. "Our goal has been to win a second state title in a row and now we have that opportunity. It's been our one focus all year ... so we're a happy bunch."
While M-SM might seem to be entering as a significant favorite -- hey, they've won 86 straight games, after all -- it's actually Kee High that enters on more os a convincing streak. Led by ace pitcher Jon Heiderscheit, the Hawks rolled past Mason City (Iowa) High, 5-0, in their Class A state semifinals.
Martensdale-St Mary's, on the other hand, rallied for a 5-4 victory against Coon Rapids (Iowa) Bayard High on Thursday. The Blue Devils, who will play for their second straight state title on Saturday, never led until the seventh inning. Perhaps more surprisingly, the victory was the team's second straight in which the Blue Devils needed to mount a fierce, late rally; M-SM knocked off English Valleys (Iowa) High, 2-1, in the quarterfinals on Monday.
So, what will happen on Saturday? That's anyone's guess, though one Martensdale-St. Mary's player said he had plenty of faith that he and his teammates would get the job done, even if doing so would require a marked improvement over the team's performance earlier in the playoffs.
"We don't really get scared," Blue Devils star Dillon Coates told the Register. "We just have that voice in our head saying we are not going to lose this game. …
"We're playing lucky baseball right now. We need to pick it up for the next game."
If they do pick it up, Martensdale-St. Mary's will win an astounding 87th game in-a-row. If they don't, well, then they will fall at the hands of a man who has overseen even more victories than they know, themselves.