For the bulk of the last decade, the CIML has kept a stranglehold on Class 4A’s baseball scene. The league had produced nine of the previous 10 champions in Iowa’s largest class, with five different CIML schools hoisting trophies in that span.
The domination has finally been disrupted.
Backed by two riveting offensive innings and enough pitching to piece together a competent showing, top seed Pleasant Valley broke through the CIML’s reign for eastern Iowa’s first 4A title since 2016.
The Spartans toppled third-seeded Johnston, 14-5, Saturday at Duane Banks Field, denying the Dragons’ repeat bid in the process. Pleasant Valley (37-4) clinched the school’s first baseball title as well.
In a contrast of state-tournament experience, Johnston’s baseball prestige clashed with Pleasant Valley’s renaissance group. The Dragons (37-8) are on this stage often. The Spartans hadn’t even been past the quarterfinal round since 1980.
None of that mattered Saturday, especially after Pleasant Valley surged above early seesawing action with a six-run fourth inning. The Spartans entered averaging only about six runs per game, yet they blew by that number with authority.
The first six Spartans reached on five hits and a walk, green-lighting a massive frame. Five different Pleasant Valley players picked up RBIs in the inning that started with Johnston ahead one — and ended with the Dragons staring at an 8-3 hole.
Johnston tried its best to stay alive, mustering two in the fifth with help from Connor Canny’s RBI double. But a deflating double play came with the bases loaded and no one down to stop the rally short. Trailing 8-5 with time running out, Johnston had to find some mound stability to remain in this one.
It didn’t happen. Pleasant Valley uncorked another six-run frame in the fifth, doing so with the help of two bases-loaded walks and Ryan Mumey’s ringing two-run double.
On this day, Pleasant Valley’s pitching depth trumped Johnston’s weary staff. Jacob Wolver absorbed the initial damage, yielding eight hits and six runs over three innings, but the Dragons’ bullpen also struggled to keep Pleasant Valley at bay. Four Johnston relievers yielded eight runs while getting nine outs.
Pleasant Valley’s Matthew Meyer and Barrett Lindmark were more effective. The duo allowed nine hits and five runs over seven innings, taking advantage of the wiggle room their offense provided.
Dreams of another dogpile propelled this Johnston squad through the rugged CIML and two strong state wins. But the league, and the Dragon, had to take a back seat on this afternoon.