A special moment in Lake Mills last night in a game you heard on KHAM. Eli Menke took the mound as the starting pitcher with his dad, coach Kyle Menke – recently diagnosed with cancer – watching behind the outfield fence.
Eli didn’t hold back. He threw a 105-pitch complete game 2-hitter allowing no runs and struck out a school record 20 batters. Last year as a sophomore, Menke struck out 57 batters in 37 innings for a strikeout and a half per inning.
Coach Kyle Menke is the longest-tenured head basketball coach in the Top of Iowa Conference and has coached the Bulldogs to many milestones in the past 24 years. That includes a conference record of 49 straight conference victories and three straight conference titles. He led the Bulldogs to three consecutive state tournament appearances and last year to the Class 2A substate final.
This spring, Menke found out he had acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer affecting roughly 200,000 people in the United States annually. Menke has spent many days in the hospital with more to come, but he was able to make it to watch Eli pitch last night.
Three years ago, when Eli was a freshman, the Menke father and son duo started a four-year journey few high school athletes will experience when Eli hit the basketball floor to play for his dad. In previous interviews with coach Menke, he described it as special and moments they don’t take for granted.
“It’s special and something I’ve waited for since he was little,” Menke said during a March 2022 interview with KIOW radio. “It is special to have a son that loves the game and can be part of this program. I’m blessed and glad to be able to coach him for a couple more years,” Menke also stated.
The win helped new head coach Joel Koch record his first career victory. The Bulldogs are hoping for many more to come for the first-year coach.
Slade Sifuentes had the old record of 18 strikeouts he broke during his senior season 2017. Sifuentes had 73 total strikeouts that year in 45 innings pitched.
Following the game, Eli walked straight to centerfield as Kyle came from his seat beyond the centerfield fence through the gate, and they embraced. The power of sports, even while going through a tough time and a battle with a wicked disease, the Menke family could pause, for a moment, to relish a historic moment on the diamond. A moment that will live on in Lake Mills’ history and one Kyle and Eli can cherish forever.
A benefit for Kyle and his family is planned for June 10th at the Lake Mills Fire Department. It will be a drive-thru style pulled pork meal with all proceeds going to medical expenses for the Menke family. The dinner will start at 6:00 PM, and the rest of the menu includes baked beans, coleslaw, and a cookie for a free-will donation.