Kellen Strohmeyer got a little agitated with his teammates when they mentioned his approaching place in the Dubuque Hempstead baseball record books on Friday night.
The junior shortstop set the school’s single-season hits record with an infield single in the second inning, then added a walk-off base hit that gave the Mustangs a 10-0, five-inning victory over Bettendorf in an Iowa Class 4A Substate 5 opener at Petrakis Park. Strohmeyer recorded his 56th and 57th hits of the season, breaking the standard of 55 previously held by Andrew Redman and Alex Timmerman for the past 11 seasons.
Top seeded Hempstead (29-10) earned a bye into Wednesday’s substate final that will determine a berth in the eight-team state tournament the following week in Iowa City. The Mustangs will play the winner of Monday’s semifinal between North Scott (25-13) and Davenport West (23-10).
“I was actually kind of upset they told me I was one hit away from breaking it,” said Strohmeyer, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. “It was something that was kind of in the back of my head, but I didn’t want to know when I was getting close because I didn’t want to think about it too much and have it take me off my game. If I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, the hits will come, but, obviously, the most important thing tonight was winning this game.
“It’s pretty cool to have the record and it’s something I hope I can hang onto for a long time. Those two guys are among the best players ever at Hempstead, so it’s an honor just to be mentioned with them.”
Hempstead wasted no time jumping all over the Bulldogs. Strohmeyer led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an error, and Zach Sabers and Logan Runde followed with walks. Strohmeyer scored on a wild pitch, Sabers came across on an errant pickoff attempt, and Trey Schaber delivered an RBI single to make it 3-0.
“We got them on their heels early, which helped,” Hempstead coach Jeff Rapp said. “But we still could have had better at-bats and put the ball in play a little more. We struck out five times with guys in scoring position, and we have to be better in those situations.”
The Mustangs stretched the lead to 7-0 with a four-run second. Strohmeyer reached on an infield single to break the school standard, Sabers walked and Runde drove in a run with a base hit up the middle. Dane Schope followed with an RBI bloop double down the right-field line, John Cornelius drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to right, and Schaber capped the inning with another RBI double, this one inside the left-field line.
In the third, Brock Booth led off by reaching on an error and scored on Sabers’ double to right-center. Sabers made it 9-0 by scoring from second base on a wild pitch despite an ailing hamstring.
The Mustangs walked it off in the fifth. Michael Garrett led off with a base hit, stole second and scored on Strohmeyer’s single to right field.
Runde earned the pitching win by striking out six and allowing three hits and walking one in four innings. He stayed under the 70-pitch target Rapp set for him, then Booth retired the Bulldogs in order in the fifth.
“Usually, I’m not super nervous about these type of things, but, with it being senior year, I kind of had the jitters for the first time in a while,” Runde said after improving to 5-1 and lowering his ERA to 2.30. “But I love the playoffs, and I had a lot of confidence coming into tonight.
“Once I settled in, the nerves kind of went away and I could relax and just pitch. It helped that we had the big lead early. I just had to throw strikes and let my defense make plays.”
Bettendorf ended its season at 8-23.