NORTH LIBERTY — Casey Perrenoud’s heart is in pitching.
The Western Dubuque senior right-hander loves being on the mound, even though he’s proven he is capable at the plate as well.
The Class 4A sixth-ranked Bobcats needed both from him Friday night. Perrenoud tallied two hits with three RBIs and pitched an inning of relief for the save in an 8-7 victory over host Iowa City Liberty in the opener of a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader. The Lightning notched a split with a 9-6 triumph in the nightcap.
In Game 1, Western Dubuque called on Perrenoud with a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh. Despite two Bobcats errors, a dropped third strike that allowed a runner to load the bases with two outs and a dribbler for an infield RBI single, he remained composed and closed with his third strikeout of the frame.
“I’ve always been about just getting your mind right and go right at them,” said Perrenoud, who was 8-1 with a 0.88 earned-run average and a team-high 67 strikeouts last season. “Just stay poised there.
“I do talk to myself a little bit just to get back in the zone, take a deep breath and look at the scoreboard.”
The Bobcats rely on his grit and guts and one of their top pitchers, according to Western Dubuque Coach Casey Bryant. He praised his competitiveness and said when the situation gets tough, Perrenoud gets tougher.
“He had a great season last year on the mound,” Bryant said. “He’s a stopper. He can come in and close the door for us when things look shaky, like they did.
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“He’s not going to put his head down and mope about it. He’s going to get after people. When he does that he’s pretty good.”
Perrenoud had just 11 hits and five RBIs last season. He had a two-run double in the three-run first, helping Western Dubuque to a 5-0 lead by the third inning. He added an RBI single to make it 7-2 in the fourth.
“Offensively, he’s been looking really good in the cages,” Bryant said of Perrenoud. “He’s a much improved player. We put him in an RBI slot, so he could drive in runs for us.
“He had a big hit and helped us change momentum there for us at the end.”
Sawyer Nauman’s sacrifice fly chased home Will Burds, who reached on a single, with what turned out to be the game-winning run in the seventh.
Liberty continued to battle, chipping away at the Bobcats lead. Nolan Frey struck for the Lightning, hitting a two-run single in the third and an RBI single in the sixth. The latter pulled Liberty within a run.
The Lightning also capitalized on two Bobcats errors for three in the fourth. Frey, Tyler Dahm and Jacob Norris each had two hits for Liberty in the opener.
Perrenoud thwarted the late rally, causing fits with strong movement and a fastball that was clocked at about 83 miles per hour.
“I think Liberty is a tremendous hitting team,” said Perrenoud, who had an RBI single in the second game. “You just have to stay calm out there. Trust the defense, the pitch calls and everything else then we’ll be fine.”
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Liberty (3-1) avenged the loss, overcoming a 4-1 deficit with an eight-run fourth in Game 2. Isaac Bender reached on a fielder’s choice, driving in a run. Norris followed with a two-run single and advanced to second on the throw home.
Norris gave Liberty its first lead of the night on a hustle play, scoring from second on a wild pitch by just sliding in before the tag when Western Dubuque was slow to cover the plate.
Western Dubuque (2-2) is coming off a 32-win season that resulted in a Class 4A state quarterfinals appearance. The Bobcats have some new faces in the lineup. Bryant said they have been hindered by inconsistency early this season and it doesn’t help that all-state catcher and Ole Miss signee Calvin Harris is out due to injury.
“We’re a developing team,” Bryant said. “We’re getting there. We look good at times. Other times we look poor. We just need to keep developing some consistency and confidence.”
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