Western Dubuque has established itself as one of the premier baseball programs in the state, again reaching the Class 4A State Tournament, where two-time 4A champion Urbandale sent the Bobcats home for the second year in a row.
Coach Casey Bryant’s team, in its first year in the Mississippi Valley Conference, finished second in the league’s Mississippi Division to Class 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier, on the way to a 32-10 overall record, winning over 30 games for the third consecutive season.
“The season was very rewarding, although we were disappointed with losing at the state tournament,” said Bryant. “We feel as though if it had not rain-delayed our game at state we were in a good spot to advance.”
Urbandale put up three second-inning runs after a two hour and 40-minute delay at Principal Park, and the Bobcats never recovered, dropping a 3-0 decision to the J-Hawks in their opening-round contest.
“The rain really changed the momentum,” added Bryant.
Bryant’s teams have always played an ambitious schedule, and the move to the predominantly 4A MVC certainly toughened things even more.
“Our first year in the MVC we finished second in the Mississippi Division,” Bryant said. “We had the third-best record in a tough Class 4A 16-team league overall.”
Eight seniors, who have been part of 124 wins and a pair of conference championships in addition to the state tournament berths, played a big role in the Bobcats’ return to Des Moines.
Sam Goodman garnered second-team all-state honors after going 6-4 with a 0.67 ERA on the hill — hitting .306 in the process, while Kyle Lehmann went 7-0 on the mound and was a beast at the plate, hitting .375 with three home runs and 42 RBIs.
Speedy Damon Jaeger hit .350 with four home runs, 31 RBIs and 36-of-38 stolen bases, while Creighton recruit Zach Biermann hit .310 with a home run and 30 RBIs going 1-2 in five pitching appearances.
Matt Maiers was a steady presence at shortstop and hit .277 with 16 RBIs, while Zack Butcher started 26 games and hit .250 with eight RBIs. Drake George and Jeff Theisen saw spot action during the year, with George a dependable base runner and Theisen making three mound appearances.
Plenty of talent returns in 2020, and any discussion of the future has to start with University of Mississippi recruit Calvin Harris, who again was named to the Iowa Press Sports Writers Association first all-state team after hitting .408 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs while going 3-1 on the mound with 63 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings and an ERA of 1.07.
Junior Casey Perrenoud had a breakout season, going 8-1 with an ERA of 0.88 and 67 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings while hitting .275 in 40 plate appearances, while classmate Carter Kluesner was 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA in eight outings.
Payton Quagliano and Ben Bryant played in all 42 games, with both having 41 starts. Quagliano was solid in left field and hit .319 with 24 RBIs and a 2-1 pitching mark, while Bryant was steady at second base, hitting .216 with 10 RBIs and a 1-0 mound record.
Sophomore Sawyer Nauman was hampered by a hand injury, appearing in only 18 games, hitting .205 with one home run and six RBIs, while junior Luke Vorwald started eight games behind the plate.
Colin Hogan played 21 games as a courtesy runner and stole 16 bases while scoring 21 runs, Will Burds had four hits in seven at-bats in 18 games, Michael Kraft one hit in 10 game appearances, and Ben Hogan played in five games.
“We did a really nice job of overcoming some injuries and feel as though we helped some kids develop their games for the future. Casey Perrenoud, Carter Kluesner and Zack Butcher are the real heroes of our team,” said coach Bryant. “They saved us when we had guys go down and got hurt. They stepped up and helped our team out a great deal.”
“We are looking forward to next season and are ready to get to work for 2020,” concluded Bryant.