116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — When asked after a semifinal victory Wednesday night about his thoughts on facing mighty Davenport Assumption in the Class 3A state title game, Western Dubuque Coach Casey Bryant shrugged and said his team had to play good baseball to have any chance.
“Mission accomplished,” he said Friday.
Yeah, the Bobcats played great baseball, as it turned out. Championship baseball.
Pitcher Isaac Then threw a beauty, the offensive attack was consistent, the baserunning relentlessly aggressive, and WD rolled past top-seeded Assumption, 7-1, Friday night at Banks Field. This is the first state baseball championship for Western Dubuque, which was a runner-up in 2006.
One of the best programs in the state regardless of class, Assumption was denied its 12th title.
“It just feels good to not necessarily have the biggest names, but to get it done and bring a title to WD,” said Western Dubuque third baseman Tucker Nauman.
“I came out knowing they had all the pressure on them,” said Then. “We came out with no pressure. We came out confident that we had a chance.”
There was such a huge contrast in the way these teams got to the finals.
Assumption (32-7) played only 11 innings in its first two games, winning by mercy rule twice by a combined margin of 24-4. Western Dubuque (32-11), meanwhile, literally was one pitch from being immediately eliminated.
The Bobcats got a two-out, two-strike, two-run walk-off double from Garrett Kadolph to beat Winterset in the quarters.
“A crazy feeling,” Then said. “That was a tight game. Now we’ve won a state championship.”
They scored three runs late to break a tie and quell Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the semis, as a matter of fact. But this was the comparative bizarro game for both teams.
Western Dubuque got a run right away in the top of the first inning, and peppered four Assumption pitchers by scoring at least once in five innings.
“We didn’t play perfect, but we played solid,” Bryant said. “We kept the pressure on them. They’ve just been boat-racing everybody down here. Getting guys on, putting pressure on, stealing bases, hit and run. They just put so much pressure on your team. They’re a fantastic team. Our goal was to beat them at their own game.”
Jake Goodman led things off with a single up the middle and eventually scored his team’s first run. He ended up going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a hit by pitch.
Bobcats hitters were plunked five times, an odd statistic.
Eighth-grader Brett Harris, the younger brother of former WD star and University of Mississippi national champion Calvin Harris, went 2-for-2 with a hit by pitch, a walk and two runs scored. Nauman drove in a pair.
So did Then (pronounced Thain), though his pitching was the real story. The left-handed junior isn’t overpowering, but pounded the strike zone and worked effectively up in the zone with a fastball that probably never topped 80 miles per hour.
He gave up a single in the first inning but didn’t allow another hit until the sixth, a single that scored Assumption’s lone run. An unearned one at that.
Then walked just one and struck out nine to improve his season record to 8-0. He was out and out great.
“I throw a two-seamer that has a lot of run, and I think that’s a big part of it,” he said.
“Isaac, I wish I could put my finger on why people swing through his 80 mile-per-hour fastball. But they consistently do, because it moves,” Bryant said. “He’s got a fastball that cuts in, he’s got a fastball that fades away. Then his changeup is really hard to gauge. You can’t see it, it looks the same (as his fastball). Then he spins a little curveball in there as well and gets tons of groundballs with it. He’s had a fantastic year, has beaten seven ranked teams this year. Not many pitchers can put that feather in their cap.”
Western Dubuque plays in a predominantly 4A league in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Its only losses to 3A teams were to Dubuque Wahlert and Cedar Rapids Xavier.
Assumption does the same in the Mississippi Athletic Conference. This was just its second loss to a 3A team, the other coming to Solon.
“We came out and played a good game,” Then said. “We hit the ball, scored runs, had some stolen bases, played great defense and got us a win.”
A championship win.
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