English Valleys silences critics at State

Published on August 3, 2011 in the Sigourney News-Review, Keota Eagle and What Cheer Paper

The Bears of English Valley can hold their heads high.

After winning four straight postseason games and earning the school's first ever trip to the state baseball tournament, English Valley was still written off by much of the state as a fluke, but the eighth seeded Bears proved otherwise as they pushed top-seeded Martensdale-St. Mary's to the brink, before falling 2-1 on a walk-off hit on July 25th in the first round of the state tournament in Des Moines.

"I have seen comments all the time on the internet saying, 'EV shouldn't be here,' but we proved today, we showed everybody in the state that we are for real, we are not a team to just walk all over, and Martensdale knows that now," said senior starting pitcher Kendall Gent.

Although English Valley (9-16) couldn't pull out the upset against 1-A juggernaut and eventual state champion, Martensdale-St. Mary's (44-0,) the 2-1 decision was the closest game that the Blue Devils have had all year.

The top-ranked team in the state won every game this season by an average of 9.1 runs per game and won 21 games by double digits this year. They also set the national record for consecutive wins when they stretched their streak to 84 wins in the sub-state final.

The Bears, however, were not intimidated by all the stats and the hype.

"We knew we could come in and play with them," said head coach Matt Snakenberg. "We knew that they would overlook us like every other team we have played in the postseason. Seeing our record they are not going to think anything of us."

English Valley wasted no time in showing the Blue Devils just how wrong they were as sophomore short stop Wes Warwick belted a double down the first baseline in the games first at-bat and came around to score later in the inning, giving the Bears the early 1-0 lead.

"We knew that we had to get out there early because they have strong bats, so we knew that we had to get on the board first," Warwick said. "A lot of our games have come down to the final innings and we knew we couldn't do that today."

After the Bears first inning offensive outburst, Gent and the team defense was the story of the game for English Valley. The Bears allowed just five hits and committed two errors in the game against an offensive power that averaged 10.29 hits and 10.49 runs per game this season.

"I was hitting my zone pretty well, I got the outside corner and my curveball was definitely hitting today," Gent said. "The defense was helping me out so much, all the plays the outfielders made and the in fielders made, it was great."

Gent racked up nine strikeouts in the contest and issued just one walk after pitching the entire game for English Valley. Gent was also backed up by some nifty defense that kept Blue Devils runners from advancing or off base entirely.

"We just made plays," Warwick said. "There would be games in the regular season where we would have four or five errors. I think that is how many we have had all postseason so our defense has just been phenomenal."

In fact, everything about the Bears has been much improved during their run through the postseason. Snakenberg said that he thought his team has played "near perfect" baseball throughout the stretch.

"We ended the season on a comeback victory, so we had some momentum going into the post-season," Gent said. "Then when we beat our rival, Keota, in the first round we had so much momentum that we knew we could easily compete against anybody and we could take them down."

Although the trip to state didn't end the way they wanted it to, the team is proud of all that they accomplished this year.

"It has been 30 years since English Valley had won a district championship in the sub-state round and they still talk about that game, so this is a game that they will be talking about for a long time I hope," Snakenberg said.

But as much as it means to the town, it is that much more special to the players and coaches that accomplished the feat.

"I am just going to remember us coming up here and playing this game," Snakenberg said. "These kids, they are going to remember this for the rest of their lives, this is the best thing that has ever happened to them.

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