DES MOINES — You never accept defeat. At least you shouldn’t ever accept defeat.
But there was just something about the way the Western Dubuque baseball team talked after a 7-3 loss Friday night to Urbandale in a Class 4A state tournament semifinal at Principal Park.
They knew belonged here this week, knew they had a chance to take this game. They’ll be better for it in the long run.
This was just the beginning.
“Being a young team, this experience was big for us,” said WD catcher Calvin Harris. “Getting down here and being able to play two games, get past that first round, that was huge. It was absolutely huge.”
“An experience like this means everything,” agreed Western Dubuque pitcher Sam Goodman. “It was a fun year, a fun season. This prepares us for next year. We plan to come back next year, be back in this game and hopefully come out on top next time. We need to keep getting better. The game doesn’t stop. Keep playing in the offseason, keep getting better. Come back and be a better, more experienced team next year. We were a good team this year, but I think we can come back and be better.”
That’s because Western Dubuque returns all but one starter from a team that finished 34-10 and, as Harris said, won its state tourney quarterfinal. With three Division I college commitments (Goodman, Harris and Zach Bierman) among the returnees, these guys should be able to slide right into the Mississippi Valley Conference (leaving the smaller-school Wamac) and be a serious threat state-wide in this class.
“This experience is exactly what we wanted,” said Western Dubuque Coach Casey Bryant. “We knew we were going to be young this year, but we had some talent. If we could put some things together at the end of the year and make a run, it would really, hopefully, springboard us into a great season next year.”
WD scored three runs in the top of the second to begin thoughts of grandeur. But Urbandale (34-6), the field’s No. 2 seed, pecked away at Goodman, a Wichita State commit with a 9-0 record and 0.60 earned run average.
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The J-Hawks got a run in the third, then took the lead with a three-run fourth. Three errors aided the cause, though there were a pair of hard-hit doubles.
Urbandale scored three more times in the fifth, including an error and another play that could have been called an error, causing Goodman to hit his pitch limit. The junior right-hander ended up allowing eight hits and seven runs, six earned, in 4 2/3 innings.
He’d given up just six runs all season.
“You get down, 3-0, lots of momentum. That’s tough,” said Urbandale Coach Jeremy Heinen. “We had to battle back, and we did. That kid (Goodman) was good. I’m really proud of our kids. They took some good pitches (just) out of the zone.”
Carter Troncin went 3-for-3 with four RBIs for Urbandale, finishing off things on the mound. Calvin Harris and Ben Bryant had two hits each for Western Dubuque.
“We just didn’t play defense in the middle innings,” Coach Bryant said. “If we play defense in the middle innings, this goes down to the wire. It was a good battle. But it’s a good learning experience for our guys. We have nothing to put our heads down about. We’re a young team, and we’ll be back next year.
“We thought the big key to the game was Urbandale had a whole bunch of seniors, and we had a whole bunch of youngsters.”
That won’t be the case next season.
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