Sam Goodman felt a little lump in his throat Wednesday night as he explained what the past four summers meant to him.
The Western Dubuque senior all-state pitcher had just seen his high school baseball career end a few days earlier than he hoped, and he wasn’t quite ready for reflection.
But, man, what a ride it’s been.
Goodman played four seasons of varsity baseball and helped the Bobcats amass a 124-40-1 record and two straight trips to the Iowa Class 4A state tournament to end his high school career. Urbandale edged Western Dubuque, 3-0, in the quarterfinals.
“The last four years are something we can all be proud of,” said Goodman, who will pitch at the University of Iowa in the fall. “We’ve been kind of overlooked for how long, especially when we moved up up to 4A? A lot of teams we played thought we were just a bunch of small-town kids, and they probably thought, ‘What are they going to be able to do?’
“We may not have reached our goals in the end, but we definitely left a mark as far as what WD is all about and what we’re capable of, and our seniors were a big part of that. We had a lot of leaders on this team, and our chemistry was unbelievable because of it. What makes this loss so hard is how we all got along so well, and now we’re off to college and we’re going our separate ways.”
Goodman and Creighton University recruit Zach Bierman made the varsity as freshman and played four years for the Bobcats, along with University of Mississippi recruit Calvin Harris who started as an eighth grader and has one more year remaining.
Fellow seniors Kyle Lehmann and Damon Jaeger have been staples in the lineup for the past three seasons, and Matt Maiers cracked the lineup as a junior. The Bobcats’ graduating seniors also include Drake George, Jeff Theisen, Zack Butcher and Matt Pothoff, who played key roles as members of the “bench mob” that helped keep the team loose.
They helped the Bobcats win back-to-back WaMaC Conference championships as sophomores and juniors and aided in the transition to the Mississippi Valley Conference as seniors. Western Dubuque is the smallest of the 48 schools that comprise Class 4A.
“It feels pretty cool to be a part of all the things we’ve accomplished the last four years, but I think what I’ll remember the most is the friendships I made at Western Dubuque,” said Bierman, who open enrolled from the Dubuque school district as a freshman. “Everybody — students, coaches, teachers — welcomed me with open arms right away, and I made friendships that will last the rest of my life.
“The first couple years, we were kind of the young guys. But the last two, we’ve been able to become the leaders and show more of what we can do. It’s been a pretty awesome ride.”
Western Dubuque entered this season with the goal of playing at Principal Park on championship Saturday. And the Bobcats proved their mettle all summer, spending most of the season ranked No. 2 in the state and always remaining in the top five.
“Last year, it hurt when we lost at the state tournament, but we were so young and we knew we were going to be back,” said Bobcats coach Casey Bryant, who owns a 504-282 record in 20 seasons. “We kind of surprised ourselves with our run last year. There were some good teams down there, and we were kind of thinking, ‘Let’s go down there, compete and see what we’re made of.’
“This year, we had a different mindset. We were down here to win the whole thing, and we felt we were good enough to do it. We just didn’t get the breaks we needed.”
The Bobcats aren’t finished. They return a solid nucleus of juniors Harris, Payton Quagliano, Ben Bryant, Cole Perrenoud, Carter Kluesner, Luke Vorwald and Collin Hogan, as well as sophomore Sawyer Nauman.
“Our underclassmen really wanted it for us seniors, and I respect them for that,” Goodman said. “It shows the character of that group. Don’t be surprised to see them back down here next year. They know how to compete.”