Isaac Then tossed a complete game two-hitter as Western Dubuque earned a trip to the Class 3A State Tournament, in Iowa City, with a 5-1 win over Clear Creek Amana (CCA), at Farley Park, July 13.
“The way Isaac was dealing, we knew if we put up four or five runs it was done,” coach Casey Bryant said. “I’m not surprised. If you look at who he pitched against, everybody he beat was really good.”
Then improved to 7-0 with the win over CCA.
“I’ve never had a pitcher beat six ranked teams before,” said Bryant. “We weren’t surprised with how he threw. He throws like that all the time and just knows how to pitch.”
Western Dubuque failed to score after putting runners on second and third with nobody out in the second, but broke through in the third with two runs.
Nick Bryant led off with a single up the middle and stole second, one of three Bobcat steals on the night. Caleb Klein singled to drive home Bryant and, two hitters later, Tucker Nauman — who had three hits in the contest — doubled to left center to score Klein and it was 2-1.
“We’ve been showing signs of busting out in a big way. Once we got that first key hit from Caleb, everybody kind of loosened up and just started swinging,” said Casey Bryant. “Once we had that first hit by Caleb to knock that run in, everybody relaxed.”
Klein had a big night at the plate driving in two runs with two hits.
“I just wanted to go up swinging and be relaxed,” said Klein. “I wanted to have the same mindset as always — smart hitting. I was looking fast ball. Our scouting report was first-pitch fastball, so that’s what I was working with.”
The Clippers put a scare into the Bobcats in the fourth, loading the bases with nobody out, but Then got a big full-count strikeout for the first out, and escaped with only a sacrifice fly scoring a run.
“In the fourth inning, that first strikeout was really big. It gave Isaac the confidence,” said coach Bryant. “He did a fantastic job of pitching when he was in trouble.”
Then retired the first batter in 6-of-7 innings and was backed up by a Bobcat defense that made one big play after another.
“He did a fantastic job in the other innings getting the first guy out. He mixes it up really well and the ball is on you. It gets there quicker than you think,” said Casey Bryant. “Our defense has been really good all year long.”
“Isaac has been stellar all year,” said Nauman. “It’s great to see the work he’s put in during the offseason and have it come together this season.”
The Bobcats gave Then all the runs he needed in the fifth. Jake Goodman led off with a base hit and swiped second before Klein’s second single of the game drove in Goodman to make it 3-1.
No. 3 hitter Brett Harris looped a soft liner just out of the CCA third baseman’s reach to give the Bobcats a pair of baserunners, and Nauman surprised the Clippers with a superb bunt that went for a single to load the bases with nobody out.
Garrett Kadolph drove home Klein with a base hit, and Then’s ground ball to the right side scored Harris to give the Bobcats a 5-1 lead.
“We knew he (CCA pitcher Sam Young) was going to be around the zone,” said Nauman. “He doesn’t walk very many guys. You have to just be aggressive and go get him.”
Western Dubuque got a pair of fine defensive plays in the sixth inning. Clemen made a terrific running catch in foul territory for the first out, and Goodman’s diving grab of a line shot was good for out number two.
“The sixth inning has kind of been our bugaboo. Once Isaac cruised through that, I knew it was done,” said Casey Bryant. “The funny thing is, usually at the end of games we throw a faster kid out in right field, and that would have been stupid tonight, because Jack made some great plays out there.”
The Clippers managed a seventh inning base runner, but Then got a game-ending strikeout and it was dogpile time.
“I knew all I had to do was get it across the plate and my defense would get the job done for me,” said Then. “I just went in with confidence and knew the team had my back.”
Western Dubuque had 10 hits, with Nauman going 3-for-3 with one RBI, Klein 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Kadolph 2-for-3 with one RBI, Harris and Nick Bryant 1-for-3 and Goodman 1-for-4.
Next up is a trip to Duane Banks Field, in Iowa City, where the Bobcats will be the No. 2 seed in the 3A bracket. Western Dubuque last played in the state tournament during back-to-back trips to Principal Park, in Des Moines, in 2018 and 2019.
“It feels great. I love Bobcat Nation’s support. It’s just great we could come together, get this win and head to Iowa City” said Nauman. “We’re just going to keep it going, keep the bats alive, keep the pitching staff going and finish strong. Everything’s great.”