To put it plain and simple, Sam Goodman was untouchable.

Okay, Goodman was only almost perfect as he faced just one batter over the minimum when he tossed a no-hitter in the biggest game of his high school career to lead the Western Dubuque baseball team to an 8-0 win over Davenport Central in a Class 4A substate final at Farley Park July 24. The Bobcats are one of eight teams still alive for the chase for the state championship.

“It was a good one. Now, we go for the championship. A five-game season just got cut down to three,” said Casey Bryant, head coach of the Bobcats, about his team’s title dreams. “I knew we had a chance to be special this year, but we ran into so many injuries throughout the year that kind of sidetracked us. We had a lot of adversity this year, so it feels great to get here.”

The Bobcats faced no issues against Davenport Central as Goodman mowed down the Blue Devils in order to start the game and then turned things over to his offense who took care of business with their bats and legs. WD got on top in the bottom of the first inning as Calvin Harris was issued first base after a four-pitch walk. He stole second and took third on Goodman’s fly ball to centerfield. Damon Jaeger worked a walk and took second without a throw. Collin Hogan, a courtesy runner for Harris, scored on an RBI single by Kyle Lehmann and Zach Bierman’s two-run triple plated Jaeger and Lehmann to give Goodman all the runs he needed as the Bobcats grabbed a 3-0 lead.

“We wanted to get a lead on these guys. The longer you let them feel like they are in the game, the more determined they are going to be,” said Bryant as he remembered Davenport Central showed the Bobcats the door back in 2017. The Blue Devils scored two unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 2-1 lead before ending the Bobcats season 5-2 in 10 innings.

The score was still 3-0 at the end of the fourth inning, which was when Bryant had planned to make a pitching change but since Goodman had allowed just one base runner via hit by pitch in the top of the fourth and his pitch count was only at 37, he decided to roll the dice and stick with him.

“The plan was to throw Sam just four innings and Calvin three, but when he’s that dominant you just can’t take him out,” said Bryant, knowing he had plenty of arms available if Goodman stumbled. “We knew he had it in him.”

In the bottom of the fifth, the Bobcats produced a couple more insurance runs for Goodman even though he didn’t need them. Lehmann crushed a solo home run to right and Bierman, who earned a walk, moved around the bases to score the fifth run of the game on three wild pitches.

In the sixth, the Bobcats added three more runs. Goodman laid down a bunt designed to move Ben Bryant and Harris up a base, but they both ended up scoring when the throw to first hit Goodman. The ball bounced into rightfield, and Goodman ended up on third base and scored, two batters later, on Lehmann’s sacrifice fly.

Goodman returned to the mound to get the final three outs, the last one via strikeout that set off the Bobcats’ celebration of moving on in the tournament.

“The pitching performance was fun, but (getting to third on the bunt) was pretty cool. That’s a long way to run. Track season ended a while ago for me so I was a little out of breath. The biggest thing was coming out here and getting the win,” said Goodman with a huge smile after the game. “We all want to get as far as we can and we know the best way to do that is to go out and compete.”

Goodman, one of nine seniors on the Bobcats’ roster, needed just 61 pitches to finish off Davenport Central and ended with five strikeouts. He’s been a four-year starter for the team and knows that it has and will continue to take a team effort for the Bobcats to accomplish their goal.

“Cal did a great job in helping me. He called a great game. I give him a lot of credit,” said Goodman about the guy behind the plate. “People overlook how good of a catcher he is. They just look at his stats and what he does at the plate, but a lot of the time it’s overlooked how good of a game he calls behind the plate. He’s a big reason why our whole pitching staff does so well. We know we have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of good players. We just want to go out and play our kind of baseball. If we play within ourselves good things will happen.”

The Bobcats (32-9), the number three seed, will travel to Des Moines where they will play Urbandale (28-14), the sixth seed and reigning Class 4A champion, at Principal Park in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A State Tournament.