116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Dubuque County is synonymous with baseball.
From semi-pro feuds and movie sets to numerous town-ball teams and successful high school players and programs, the sport is a way of life.
In the center of that tradition like a cork core wrapped in layers of twine and string encased in cowhide with red stitches, lives the rivalry between Cascade and Dyersville Beckman.
“Just knowing the history behind it,” Cougars senior Jack Carr said. “If you wanted to win one game in the regular season that is definitely the one you’d want to win.”
Beckman senior Owen Huehnergarth echoed those sentiments.
“It’s the biggest rivalry in Eastern Iowa,” Huehnergarth said. “It’s good competition.”
Many years their roads to 24 combined state tournament appearances intersected. For just the second time and the first time in 40 years, Cascade and Beckman will be making the same trek to the state baseball tournament. The Cougars are seeded third, while Beckman is fourth in the Class 2A state quarterfinals Tuesday at Merchants Park Stadium in Carroll. The 1A tournament begins Monday.
“For both of us to make it down to state is pretty cool,” Beckman’s Nick Schmidt said. “It’s been a long time since it’s happened. We’re actually super familiar with them. It will be a heck of a game, if we see each other.”
Cascade (20-5) opens with No. 6 Mid-Prairie (18-10). Beckman (24-13) faces fifth-seeded Dike-New Hartford (26-3). The Cougars topped Beckman, 6-3, in the regular season. If the two teams meet again, it would be in the championship game, which would elevate the rivalry to greater heights.
“To have the opportunity to be opposite them and both of us winning and being at the state tournament, it’s a pretty unique opportunity,” Cascade Coach Roamn Hummel said. “I think a lot of people in Cascade and Dyersville are really baseball-minded people. Obviously, the thing I’ve heard the most of is everybody wants to see a Dubuque County matchup in the state finals. It would be pretty sweet to get to that point.”
Both programs have been at the mercy of the Iowa High School Athletic Association when postseason paths are determined. They were sent different directions this year, despite being 15 miles apart, allowing two of the top eight 2A teams to reach Carroll.
“They did a good job,” longtime Beckman Coach Fred Martin said of the state’s district assignments. “They looked around. They split us up. They were fairer than past years.”
Beckman will make its 19th state appearance, which is tied for second all-time. The Blazers are back for the first time since their 13th final and sixth title in 2017. Cascade advanced for the fifth time, making the 2015 semifinals in its last trip.
“Baseball describes Dubuque County,” Beckman junior Nate Offerman said. “I think it means a lot. I know we fight when we’re playing baseball. It doesn’t seem like it but we really do love each other at the end of the day. We’re proud of each school.”
The only other time both schools reached state was in 1982 when it was a four-team field. Cascade fell to Norwalk, which advanced to beat Beckman for the 3A title then. It was one of the rare years the baseball powers weren’t grouped in the same district or substate.
“People don’t realize, even when my older boys were playing, the level of competition between the two teams and the quality of players,” Martin said. “We’re No. 1 and 2. They’re No. 1 and we’re No. 2. Whatever. We have five or six guys (combined) that are D-I players and we have to play each other right off the hoop. It just wasn’t right.
“I’m happy for Roamn. They deserve it. He works so hard for baseball. He’s a very intense coach. I’m just tickled for them, too.”
That wasn’t always the case. Hummel said the rivalry in the 1980s and early 1990s were a little more based in detestation. Hummel played for the Cougars in the 1990s, noting that Perfect Game leagues at the time helped dissolve divisions. Cascade players like Hummel, Marty Sutherland, Micah Green and Jason Simon played with their Blazer counterparts like Nic Ungs, Kyle and Dale Martin and Rob English. The results were positive relationships and mutual respect.
“Before that, you never really talked to those guys and you played them on the field,” said Hummel, noting how social media has brought current players together. “The old rivalry in the 1980s and early 1990s was probably where a lot of the downright hate came from. Honestly, it spills over to semi-pro. Cascade and Dyersville still have good semi-pro teams and still compete that way.
“Once we got to know those guys outside the lines it really was different. It was like, ‘Oh, wow, these guys are actually pretty good guys.’”
Beckman and Cascade players have joined together with players from Western Dubuque, which is seeded second in the 3A field, and Dubuque Hempstead, Senior and Wahlert to win Legion Baseball state titles and advance to the Legion World Series. Former Western Dubuque prep Calvin Harris was a former Gatorade Player of the Year and was a member of Mississippi’s Men’s College World Series championship team.
“There have been a lot of success from a lot of people, too,” said Hummel, whose son, Cooper, starts for the Cougars. “We have a lot of really good players that come out of this area. I think that’s why people say that Dubuque County area is a baseball area.”
Three of those schools will vie for a state title with a chance to add another line to the area’s storied tradition filled with team titles and accomplished college and professional athletes.
“It’s really special,” Carr said. “To be able to come out here and go to Carroll is awesome, especially for me as a senior. We haven’t done it my four years of high school. It’s awesome to be able to keep playing.”