Calvin Harris’ walk-off two-run home run might have been the big blow that ended Western Dubuque baseball team’s Class 4A Substate 4 semifinal game, but it was the four-run first inning that set the tone for the Bobcats as they went to work to get an 11-0 win over Waterloo East in five innings.
“You can’t take anyone lightly this time of year. Anybody can beat anybody in baseball, so our focus is one pitch at a time,” said Casey Bryant, head coach of the Bobcats. “You have to win five games to win the state championship … one down and four more to go.”
The Bobcats’ team speed and aggressiveness was on display from the moment Collin Hogan, Harris’ courtesy runner, took Harris’ place at first base after he got things going with a lead-off single. Hogan quickly stole second and reached third on Sam Goodman’s perfectly placed sacrifice bunt that turned into an infield single because he hustled his way to first base. Goodman moved into scoring position when he swiped second base which allowed him to score along with Hogan on Damon Jaeger’s ground ball to second that was misplayed. Two batters later, Jaeger touched home plate on Zach Bierman’s groundball out to shortstop. Sawyer Nauman kept the inning going as he reached on an error by the third baseman and scored when Payton Quagliano smashed the first pitch he saw to the base of the leftfield wall for an RBI-double that put the home team up 4-0.
“That was big to get out early. It takes the pressure off that’s for sure. Getting some runs early allows you to relax and settle into the game a little bit,” said coach Bryant. “They made a couple of little mistakes that hurt them quite a bit. Our plan was to be super aggressive on the bases. We ran ourselves out of an inning by doing that, but we got what we wanted early in the game.”
Another key was the effectiveness of Casey Perrenoud on the mound. Perrenoud allowed a base runner in each of the first two innings, but a five-pitch third inning helped him keep his pitch count down so he went all five innings to get the shutout. Perrenoud gave up three hits, walked one and struck out five as he lowered his ERA to 0.88 and improved to 8-1 for the year.
“He’s been like that all year long. He just fills up the strike zone and doesn’t walk many guys and gets a lot of ground ball outs for us,” said coach Bryant. “We wanted to work fast, throw a lot of strikes, get ground balls and get back in the dugout because it was hot.”
The only thing that might have been hotter than the 90-degree temperature was the Bobcat bats. WD combined for 10 hits on the night with five players collecting RBIs and nine players touching home plate in their 31st win of season. Even with all that firepower, the Bobcats also have speed at their disposal as they stole seven bases and managed to score a run in the bottom of the fourth with only one hit. Ben Bryant ripped a bullet between third and short for a two-out single. He moved to third on two stolen bases and scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.
In the home half of the fifth, the bats exploded. That’s when Nauman smashed his first homer of the season over the 340-foot sign in left-centerfield and Harris hammered his two-run shot well over the right-field wall.
“We just wanted to come out and get a win tonight. We’re into the one and done time of the year so we got after it. We swung the bats pretty well and put up some good numbers,” said Harris. “The big thing now is to do whatever we can to win. Good, bad, ugly. Whatever you can do to help the team get the victory is what’s important right now.”
The Bobcats will play Davenport Central in the Class 4A Substate 4 final held at Farley Wednesday, July 24, at 7 p.m. The winner advances to Principal Park in Des Moines to continue their quest for a state title.