FARLEY, Iowa — Pitching and defense always play a pivotal role at the state baseball tournament, and Western Dubuque could have a few aces up its sleeves this week in Des Moines.

The Bobcats rank first in earned run average among the 48 schools in Class 4A. They have surrendered just 1.87 earned runs per seven innings en route to a 32-9 record and a No. 3 seed at the state tournament. Top-seeded Johnston ranks second with a 2.05 ERA.

“The big thing is we have seven pitchers we can throw on any given night, and we have confidence that all of them are going to go out and compete,” said senior Sam Goodman, a University of Iowa recruit who owns a 6-3 record and 0.47 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. “But our defense is also about as good as it gets.

“We have outfielders who are going to get anything in the air, our infielders are going to keep everything in front of them, and Calvin Harris is as good as it gets behind the plate at controlling the running game. Your defense plays a huge role in holding teams down.”

University of Mississippi recruit Harris also works diligently with assistant coach Tyler Samson on scouting reports and statistics of opposing hitters.

“We’re going to go after people, we’re not going to pitch around anyone,” Harris said. “We’re constantly looking at spray charts and talking about what’s working against each individual hitter, so we can take an aggressive approach to getting them out.”

The Bobcats’ rotation also includes Casey Perrenoud (8-1, 0.88 ERA), Harris (3-1, 1.21 ERA), Carter Kluesner (3-1, 2.13 ERA) and Kyle Lehmann (7-0, 2.93 ERA). Payton Quagliano (2-1, 3.07 ERA) and Creighton recruit Zach Bierman (1-2, 3.07 ERA) add to the pitching depth.

“We put in a lot of time in the offseason, and we have some really talented kids on the mound,” Western Dubuque coach Casey Bryant said. “Even when they haven’t been their sharpest, they know how to get guys out because they understand how to pitch. It’s not just overpowering hitters.

“Where we really have an advantage is in those No. 5, 6 and 7 guys, because they’ve all competed for us. On most teams, those guys might get roughed up a little bit, but our guys never did.”

Western Dubuque reached the state tournament with a pair of shutout victories. Perrenoud tossed a three-hitter in an 11-0, five inning victory over Waterloo East, and Goodman threw his fourth career no-hitter to blank Davenport Central, 8-0, in the Substate 4 final.

“If our defense is as sharp as it was the other night, we’ll be awfully tough to beat,” Bryant said.

The Bobcats can swing the bats, too. They have scored 295 runs to rank third in 4A behind fellow state qualifiers Johnston (405) and Iowa City West (343). WD hits .314 as a team.

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