116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — This was a breeze. Comparatively anyway.
“I’m not used to having such a big lead at the end,” kidded Western Dubuque baseball Coach Casey Bryant, after his team’s 9-6 win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton in a Class 3A state tournament semifinal at Banks Field.
Not sure if these Bobcats are a team of destiny. That’ll be found out for sure Friday when they play Davenport Assumption for the championship.
Western Dubuque (31-11) is this 3A tourney’s second seed, Assumption (32-6) its No. 1. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
While Assumption has dominated its two state tournament foes by a combined 24-4, playing a total of just 11 innings in a pair of mercy-rule wins, it’s been a different deal for WD.
It took a two-out, two-run double by Garrett Kadolph in the bottom of the seventh for the Bobcats to beat Winterset in Monday’s quarterfinals. Sergeant Bluff-Luton (31-12) got up on ‘em 3-0 in the first inning Wednesday night, but Western Dubuque eventually found a way again.
“It’s been a crazy week,” said Western Dubuque catcher Bryn Vantiger. “A lot of excitement, a lot of nervous energy. It’s just been a lot of fun, a great experience.”
Isaac Then jettisoned a pitch into the trees behind the right-field fence for a very long three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning that erased SBL’s lead and gave WD a 4-3 edge of its own.
It came after a somewhat controversial out call at first base for the second out of the inning for WD.
“It felt amazing off the bat,” Then said. “I knew it was gone right off the rip. Just giving us that lead back kind of got us right back into the game. We knew we still had a chance, and we had to keep fighting through.”
Back and forth these teams continued. A Bryce Click two-run double put SBL back ahead, 5-4, in the fourth, only to have a wild pitch in the bottom half tie it up again.
SBL scored a run in the top of the fifth for its last lead of the game, 6-5. Western Dubuque responded with three runs in the bottom half: a game-tying two-out RBI double by Kadolph and a two-run double by Vantiger that made it an 8-6 Bobcats lead.
Vantiger’s ball was a looper that the SBL center fielder made a heroic diving effort to catch, but it landed just in front of him, bounced on the turf and then over him, which allowed a second run to score.
“When you get two-out RBI hits, it puts so much pressure on the opponent,” Bryant said. “It really does.”
Mega props to WD pitcher Ryan Klostermann, who came in to relieve starter Tucker Nauman and went the final 2 2/3 innings without giving up a run and getting the victory on top of that.
“Just get outs. As many outs as you can,” Klostermann said. “Whether they hit the ball or you strike them out, just get outs.”
“We had to switch it up and see if we could get them off time or something,” Bryant said. “For whatever reason, they were swinging through Ryan’s fastball.”
While Assumption has won 11 state baseball championships and is considered one of the top five baseball programs in Iowa regardless of class, Western Dubuque still seeks championship number one.
WD did finish second in 2006.
“We’re going to have to be on our game,” Bryant said. “So far, nobody in the tournament has been able to stay with them. They’re just on fire.”
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