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Western Dubuque’s 2021 varsity baseball team: front from left, Tyler Weidenbacher, Bryn Vantiger, Ryker Staudenmaier, Garrett Baumhover, Nick Bryant, Jack Clemens, Brayden Staner, Collin Reuter, Colton McIlrath and Connor Maiers; back row, assistant coach Jesse Lawler, Logan Brosius, Sawyer Nauman, Michael Bries, Jake Goodman, Tucker Nauman, Isaac Then, Jayden Siegert, Ryan Klostermann, Zach Gehl and coach Casey Bryant.

Western Dubuque is a tradition-rich baseball school known for good pitching, solid hitting and strong defense. All indications are that Bobcat fans are going to see plenty of that this year coming off a 7-6 campaign during the shortened 2020 season.

Head coach Casey Bryant — 513-288 in 22 years at Western Dubuque — welcomes six returning starters and two additional returning lettermen, but needs to replace a strong group of seniors from the 2020 team.

“We lost some power arms and a tremendous senior class,” said Bryant. “Depth in the infield and our defense is a strength.”

Leading the returnees is senior first baseman Sawyer Nauman, who received all Mississippi Valley Conference honors after hitting .390 with two home runs and 16 RBI last year.

Senior pitcher-shortstop Garrett Baumhover returns to the starting lineup along with a strong junior group that includes catcher Bryn Vantiger, second baseman Nick Bryant, pitcher-third baseman Tucker Nauman and pitcher-outfielder Ryker Staudenmaier.

You can’t have too many arms on the roster, and Baumhover, Tanner Nauman and Staudenmaier will lead the Bobcat staff.

Nauman has the most experience of the group after going 1-2 in four appearances last season, while Baumhover and Staudenmaier appeared in three games.

Bryant will look for sophomores Isaac Then (pitcher/outfielder), Ryan Klostermann (pitcher), Colton McIlrath (shortstop/pitcher), Connor Maiers (second base), Brayden Delaney (catcher), and Caleb Klein (infielder/pitcher) to contribute along with freshmen Jake Goodman (infielder/pitcher) and Hunter Quagliano (catcher).

The Bobcats will again be in the mix in what is expected to be a tight league race, but Bryant looks for one team to stand above the rest.

“Hempstead is the best team in our conference on paper. They are a very talented group.”