FARLEY, Iowa — After Sawyer Nauman’s booming first-inning home run, Monticello elected to pitch around him in his next plate appearance.
Still, that five-pitch unintentional-intentional walk played a major factor in the outcome.
Nauman came around to score on his brother Tucker Nauman’s two-run single in the fourth inning to give the Bobcats the lead for good and advance past Monticello, 3-2, in a Class 3A Substate 3 first-round matchup Friday night.
“It always kind of sucks leading off an inning because that happens a lot,” Sawyer Nauman said. “I know in a game like this, runs come at a premium, so we will take them any way we can get them.”
The Bobcats (17-18) will host Independence — which defeated West Delaware, 7-4 — on Monday night at Farley Park.
“This time of the year you are happy just to win,” Western Dubuque coach Casey Bryant said. “For us to go where we want to go, we have to hit the ball stronger that we have been. We’ve played one game in the last week because of all the rain outs, so hopefully just getting these live at-bats will be a big bonus for us.”
Western Dubuque’s offense was understandably a little rusty as four of the last five contests were cancelled due to inclement weather.
“Baseball is funny,” Bryant said. “If you aren’t getting regular at-bats, you are going to look rusty. Yeah, we were rusty on offense; hopefully it turns around because if it does, the way we play defense, we can compete.”
Monticello took the early lead in the top of the first. Caleb Sauser walked to lead off the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He came around to score on Justin Recker’s RBI single to put the Panthers ahead, 1-0.
Sawyer Nauman wasted no time leveling the score when he blasted a towering solo home run well clear of the left-field fence, but just inside the foul pole, to tie the game.
The game remained tied, 1-1, until the fourth when Monticello essentially gave Sawyer Nauman a free pass to start the inning. Jayden Siegert’s sacrifice bunt advanced him to second and Bryn Vantiger reached on a throwing error to put runners at second and third, which set the stage for Tucker Nauman.
The junior laced a two-run single up the middle to put the Bobcats ahead, 3-1, and give himself some breathing room on the mound.
“It definitely did (boost my confidence),” Tucker Nauman said. “It was a lot more momentum for me; it felt really good.”
After allowing a first-inning run, Tucker Nauman settled in on the mound and didn’t allow a Panther runner into scoring position until the fourth, when he was able to wiggle out of some trouble. Monticello put runners on first and second, but the lead runner hesitated around third on Connor Lambert’s single and was thrown out easily at the plate.
The Panthers again mounted a rally in the sixth when Lambert — who was 3-for-3 on the night — laced an RBI single to score Justin Recker, cutting the deficit to 3-2.
The younger Nauman remained poised on the mound and coaxed Cael Sampson into an inning-ending ground out to strand the tying run on third base and preserve the lead.
Nauman wasn’t about to allow any further drama, as he tossed possibly his best inning of the game with a game-closing 1-2-3 seventh inning. The junior right-hander went the distance allowing just five hits and striking out six.
“It boils down to a team victory,” Tucker Nauman said. “I was strong on the mound, but I had confidence in the defense behind me, confidence in the at-bats with my team and it was just a team victory all together.”
While Sawyer Nauman isn’t real familiar with Independence, he expects this time of year, the Mustangs will come ready to battle.
“Everybody is tough this time of year,” he said. “We will have to see. We’ll have a good arm ready to go and I’m sure they’ll have one waiting for us, too.”