DES MOINES — Bases loaded. Tie game.
Just the way Dyersville Beckman junior Mitch Steger envisioned his shot at glory as he shouldered a bat in the bottom of the seventh inning of Saturday’s Class 2A state baseball tournament title game against North Polk.
Except for one detail.
“Getting a walk-off walk is not as you picture it growing up as a little kid,” said Steger, who patiently took four balls to deliver the winning run in a tense 2-1 triumph over the Comets at Principal Park. “But it just feels awesome.”
Suffice it to say the take sign was on.
North Polk — which lost to the Blazers in last year’s championship game, too — led 1-0 entering the inning.
Beckman Coach Tom Jenk Jr. preaches patience, and his repeat state champion team (36-6) exhibited it. Mike Boeckenstedt drew a leadoff walk, and Connor Klostermann followed with an infield single on an 0-2 pitch.
Todd Engelken sacrificed and Adam Noethe was intentionally walked to bring up No. 9 hitter Nathan Digmann, who fell to 1-2 in the count before working a base on balls to force in the tying run.
“We could feel the crowd was getting into it,” Digmann said. “We just have a feeling we’re always going to win the game. We never gave up on each other.”
They never gave in, either, as Comets relief pitcher Grant Lang’s offerings began routinely sailing high.
Lang was pressed into duty when starter Jake Hadaway injured an ankle in the top of the fourth. Hadaway stole second base, but overslid the bag, was tagged out and writhed on the ground in pain.
He was eventually carted off the field to loud applause, and Lang picked up where he left off, allowing one hit — and retiring nine Blazers in a row — until the fateful bottom of the seventh.
“Something I’ve been trying to tell the kids over and over for years is the game’s never over ’till it’s over,” said Jenk, who guided his team to its fifth state championship. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
What’s more easily predicted is the final outcome when Beckman starter Joey Lehmann takes the hill. The senior hurler allowed three hits and one first-inning run while striking out eight to improve his season record to 13-0.
Lehmann closed his Blazers’ career on a two-season winning streak — boasting a sterling 23-0 record in that span.
“If he’s not one of the best pitchers in the state of Iowa, I’ve got to see one better,” Jenk said.
“He’s the must clutch pitcher that’s ever been through this program,” said Steger, one of two non-seniors in Saturday’s starting lineup.
And even though his high school career ended, Lehmann thought about the future of that program.
Since the tournament split into four classes in 1981, only three 2A schools have repeated as champion.
The other two — Remsen-St. Mary’s and Lansing Kee — went on to three-peat.
A good omen?
“Beckman,” Lehmann said with a smile, “will surprise you.”