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It’s a hairy situation for Western Dubuque’s baseball team
Head coach Casey Bryant hasn’t shaved since his Bobcats went on a 7-game win streak at the end of last season
NORTH LIBERTY — These are the best days for the Western Dubuque High School baseball program. You can see it on Casey Bryant’s face.
The Bobcats head coach was almost physically unrecognizable Monday night as the Bobcats opened their season with a 6-5, 19-5 double-header sweep of Iowa City Liberty. The second game was shortened to five innings by mercy rule.
Bryant has a full beard going, hasn’t shaved since Western Dubuque went on a seven-game win streak at the end of last season. That streak concluded with the school’s first state baseball championship, part of a magical three-game run at Banks Field in Iowa City that included a 7-1 victory for the Class 3A title over Davenport Assumption.
Baseball guys being who they are, the coach decided he wasn’t going to mess with success. The beard was staying until the win streak officially came to a conclusion, even if that meant growing it through 10 months of offseason.
Yeah, he’ll trim it up a little bit every now and then, but that’s it. A hairy situation, for sure
“The wife is begging for us to lose a game because she hates it,” Bryant said. “I am too superstitious, and I will not shave it. Not until we lose. Then I’ll shave.”
Wouldn’t it be something if WD ran the table this season? That’s very likely not going to happen, as the Bobcats play in the mostly 4A Mississippi Valley Conference and have a very tough non-league schedule as well.
But they’re going to win their fair share of games because there are a lot of good returning players. Western Dubuque begins this season as the top-ranked team in 3A by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association.
It played a double-header Tuesday night against Dubuque Senior.
⧉ Related article: A state baseball championship performance for Western Dubuque
“We know it’s not last year, that we’ve got to come and prove ourselves again this year,” said junior infielder Jake Goodman. “As a team, we’re just a bunch of good friends on and off the field. I feel like the trust in each other is really good. We always trust the guy behind us, which is a good thing.”
Goodman is one of those returning dudes. So is senior Isaac Then, who pitched great in last year’s state championship game and also plays first base.
Senior outfielder Caleb Klein might just be Western Dubuque’s best player, Bryant said. He didn’t play Monday night in order to prepare for this weekend’s state track and field meet.
Brett Harris hit toward the top of the order last season as an eighth-grader and went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and four RBIs in Monday’s nightcap. He is the younger brother of former Gazette Athlete of the Year Calvin Harris, who won an NCAA title with Ole Miss last summer and who should be a top-10 round MLB draft pick this summer.
“Obviously I love watching him play, love watching what he does,” Brett Harris said. “But it’s about being your own kid and not worrying about what everyone else thinks.”
What does everyone else think? Western Dubuque has four captains, as voted on by the team, and one of those is Harris.
As a freshman ...
“It’s awesome hanging out with all these guys after school, practicing with them. Being with them,” Harris said. “As long as we keep moving forward now. We found a base of where we’re at tonight. Now keep moving forward and working hard.”
“Basically we don’t shy away from what happened last year. We know how fragile it is,” Bryant said. “Just because you won last year doesn’t mean anything. You’ve still got to go out and go to work. You’re going to have a big target on your back, everyone is going to give you their best shot. We’re OK with that. We want to play great competition. If everybody comes at us with their two best pitchers, that’s going to make us stronger for the end of the year.”
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