Prep Baseball

Dubuque County holds off Johnston to win state American Legion baseball tournament

CEDAR RAPIDS — The really cool thing about the 2018 American Legion State Baseball Tournament winner is that, unlike most of the other teams, they are a conglomerate.

It’s not a bunch of players from one school. Dubuque County means most of the top guys in Dubuque County.

“We’ve grown up playing against each other as kids. We all know each other,” said pitcher Sam Goodman, after his club’s 6-4 title game win Thursday night over Johnston at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “We may not be friends, exactly, but once we’re on this team, we all mesh really well. I actually was surprised by the chemistry we had. If you play against us, you wouldn’t know we’re all from different schools, the way we get along. It’s awesome playing with the best kids in Dubuque County.”

The legion champs have representatives from six different high schools. Goodman and outfielder Kyle Lehmann are from Western Dubuque, Jackson Bennett, Connor McDermott, Joel Vaske and Mark Brown are from Dyersville Beckman.

Gannon O’Brien, Reid Rausch and Blake Simon are Cascade kids, big rivals of WD and Beckman. The three Dubuque schools (Hempstead, Senior and Wahlert) also have representation.

“It makes it fun, especially playing with guys you have never played with before,” said Dubuque County’s T.J. Deardorff. “You know the names, and you see the faces, because we’ve all played against each other. But you never really get to compete on the same team.”

Deardorff was directly involved in the most pivotal play of this game. Johnston — which beat Dubuque County earlier in this nine-team tournament — loaded the bases with none out in the bottom of the seventh inning, with Deardorff — who relieved starter Goodman on the mound — getting ahead of hitter Hayden Sinnett two strikes.

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He then threw a curveball that grazed Sinnett on the elbow, but, after a lengthy discussion between the four umpires, Sinnett was ruled to have intentionally leaned into a pitch that would have been strike three. Another Deardorff strikeout and fly to center ended the game.

“Right when I let it go, I thought it looked pretty good,” said Deardorff, from Dubuque Senior. “I saw him kind of stick his arm out into it. I was just thinking that it was going to be a strike, so I had to say something. I let them know, but I think they had it under control the whole time. They took care of it. I think they made the right call.”

Dubuque County scored four runs in the second inning to take the lead for good. It will play in next weekend’s Central Plains Regional Tournament for the second time in three years.

This year’s event (which also features state champions from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska) is in Dickinson, N.D. That’s a cool 770 miles or so.

“A brutal trip,” Deardorff said. “But we’ve got a good team.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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