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Iowa prep baseball team break national record with 84th straight win
INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) ' The moment Martensdale-St. Marys High School scored the run that secured its record-breaking 84th straight win, the Blue Devils acted as if it was no big deal.
The Gatorade shower they gave their coach a few minutes later said otherwise.
Martensdale-St. Marys, a small school from rural Iowa, beat Twin Cedars-Bussey High 10-0 in six innings Tuesday night, setting the national high school record for consecutive wins.
Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire set the mark earlier this season and its streak of 83 straight wins is still alive. The Clippers won their state title in the spring.
The win by Martendsdale-St. Marys also clinched a trip to next week's state tournament for the Blue Devils, who play in Iowa's smallest classification.
Martensdale-St. Marys finished 43-0 and won the state crown a year ago. Given the streak the Blue Devils are on, they'll be the heavy favorites to reach the goal they insist is more important than making national prep history.
"It means that we've done something that nobody else has ever done," said Martensdale-St. Marys coach Justin Dehmer, who no doubt appreciated the shower his players gave him on a scorching hot night in central Iowa. "It's pretty special. Our guys are well aware of what we just did. I know there will be a celebration tonight and we're going to be all excited. But we know we've got business to take care of."
Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said Monday that he wasn't bothered in the least by seeing his team's record in jeopardy, adding that he's grown to admire his Midwestern peers from afar.
"I think it's awesome. I think it's very cool, to be honest with you. I don't think when we set the record back in May, we thought it would only last weeks, basically, before someone else came along," Hopley told The Associated Press.
It's a bit strange to see the Blue Devils and Clippers tied together by history, because it's hard to imagine two schools with less in common.
Portsmouth, a picturesque seaport community on New Hampshire's abbreviated coastline, has just over 1,000 students in its high school and is one of the biggest schools in that state's Division II.
Martensdale and St Marys are a pair of tiny towns tucked among a seemingly endless expanse of farmland just south of Des Moines, Iowa's capital. The school's most recent graduating class had just over 40 kids.
What they share is a love of the game ' and a single-minded focus that's harder to pull off than it looks.
Portsmouth hasn't lost a game since 2007. The Clippers passed the old record of 76 set by Homer (Mich.) and were honored for setting their short-lived record at Fenway Park on July 9 before a game between Boston and Baltimore.
Martensdale-St. Marys' streak started last year, when they won the Class 1A crown after surviving seven one-run games.
This year, nobody's even come that close.
Martensdale-St. Marys entered Tuesday night's game putting up mind-boggling stats. The Blue Devils were batting .405, with an on-base percentage of .519, a slugging percentage of .672 and 420 runs in 40 games. They'd hit 53 home runs, 99 doubles and stole 96 bases in 102 attempts.
By contrast, their opponents were hitting .153 and had struck out 340 times in 40 games.
"The numbers those guys are putting up are just completely ridiculous. They're almost video game type-numbers," Hopley said.
In Tuesday night's record-breaker, they put their opponents away in six innings, invoking Iowa's 10-run rule on junior Brad Nauman's RBI single in the sixth.
"It's really exciting," said junior J.D. Nielsen. "It's just fun."
The two teams haven't had much contact ' though Dehmer did "like" Portsmouth's Facebook page ' but Dehmer said they share a similar mindset, focused on winning every individual battle.
"We're extremely talented. We definitely have a lot of really good baseball players who have a lot of experience coming into the season. But the biggest thing, and the most important thing, is just our mental approach to the game," Dehmer said. "We just try our best to play one pitch at a time. I know it sounds pretty cliche, but there's a lot that goes into playing one pitch at a time."
This isn't the first time a pair of schools swapped the national consecutive wins streak. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Homer and La Cueva High in Albuquerque, N.M., swapped the mark in 2005 before Homer jumped ahead and finished with 75 straight wins after losing the Michigan state title game.
If the Blue Devils can finish their unbeaten season at the Iowa state tournament next week, they'll enter 2012 with a healthy lead on the Clippers.
But since Portsmouth's season starts much earlier than Marternsdale-St Marys, the two schools could end up swapping the lead again.
"We wish them the best of luck," Hopley said. "We'll try to catch up when we start up again next spring."