DES MOINES — Mother Nature turned the tide in this one.
Defending state champion Urbandale scored three runs immediately after a 2 hour, 40 minute rain delay Wednesday night, then held off Western Dubuque for a 3-0 victory in the Iowa Class 4A quarterfinals at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The third-seeded Bobcats bowed out at 32-10 after their second straight trip to the summer state tournament and fifth in program history. Urbandale (29-14) advanced to Friday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Wednesday’s late quarterfinal between No. 2-seeded Iowa City West and No. 7-seeded Pleasant Valley. Urbandale also ended Western Dubuque’s season last summer with a 7-3 decision in the state semfinals.
“At the end of the day, the rain delay was an unfortunate thing for both teams,” said Western Dubuque ace pitcher Sam Goodman, who took the loss. “It’s not ideal to come out and pitch after waiting more than two hours. I had to do it, they had to do it, and, honestly, it was a matter of making key plays in key situations, and they just kind of edged us out.”
The Bobcats had the momentum before the rain delay. They staged a two-out rally against Urbandale ace Ty Langenberg in the bottom of the first after Calvin Harris led off with a fly out and Langenberg picked off Goodman, who drew a walk. Damon Jaeger tripled to the right-centerfield gap, and the Bobcats loaded the bases when Kyle Lehmann reached on a hit batsman and Zach Bierman walked.
With designated hitter Sawyer Nauman at the plate, Langenberg uncorked a pitch to the screen, but the ball took a perfect bounce back to catcher Gehrig Christensen to keep Jaeger at third. Lehmann, however, strayed too far off second base, and Christensen cut him down to end the threat.
As the J-Hawks sprinted off the diamond, the Iowa Cubs’ grounds crew rolled out the infield tarp for the rain delay that pushed the re-start to 7:45 p.m.
The J-Hawks immediately went to work when the game resumed. Kip Cullinan and Garrett Purcell opened the inning with walks and moved up when Cal Watson put down a bunt. Goodman, who started on the mound, dove for the bunt but couldn’t catch it, and third baseman Casey Perrenoud dropped the throw on a potential force out.
Lucas Strain followed with a base hit to drive in the first run, and Alex Augustine drew a hit batsman to plate the second run. No. 9 hitter Joshua Neyens made it 3-0 with an RBI fielder’s choice for the first out.
Goodman then made a spectacular play to save a run. Leadoff man Brook Heinen tried a suicide squeeze, but Goodman hopped off the mound, fielded it with his glove and flipped it to Harris at the plate for the second out. Goodman fanned Christensen with the bases loaded to end the inning after Urbandale had batted around. The J-Hawks managed only one hit in the inning and three in the game.
“Just one inning, I couldn’t find the zone,” Goodman said. “I hit some, walked some and they get a bunt that I missed by an inch that leads to runs that maybe shouldn’t have. A lot of little things that could have turned out differently but didn’t. That’s baseball.”
But the one rough inning didn’t deflate the Bobcats.
“We preached to stay positive throughout the whole thing,” Harris said. “I don’t think there was a time where we hit rock bottom or anything like that. It showed until the last inning, that we still had a lot of fight left in us.
“We had a really good year, and finishing in Des Moines is always pretty good. We had high expectations this year and didn’t meet them in the end, but we still had a really good team this year.”
Ty Langenberg, like Goodman a University of Iowa recruit, did not return to the mound following the lengthy delay. His younger brother, Tucker, came on to pitch and retired the first eight batters he faced — including Harris on a stellar running catch by right-fielder Heinen for the second out of the third inning — and 12 of the first 13 he faced en route to the decision.
Bierman ended the streak with a two-out walk in the bottom of the fourth. But that inning ended a batter later, when centerfielder Ty Cowley made another stellar running catch of a Saywer Nauman liner.
Goodman pitched 3 1/3 innings before reaching 64 pitches and yielding to fellow all-stater Harris. Bobcats coach Casey Bryant planned to split the game between the two to limit their pitch counts.
Harris opened the sixth inning with Western Dubuque’s second hit of the game, a sharp single the opposite way to left field, but was retired on Goodman’s fielder’s choice. Jaeger drew another hit batsman, and the two moved up on Lehmann’s ground out. But Tucker Langenberg ended the threat by coaxing Bierman into a fly out to right field.
Western Dubuque’s third and final hit came off the bat of Matt Maiers, who delivered a two-out double down the left-field line in the seventh. Ben Bryant followed with a walk to bring up Harris as the tying run.
The J-Hawks brought Ty Langenberg back into the game for the save, and he coaxed Harris into a ground out to end the game.
“We hit a lot of balls right on the nose, and when we did, it was right at them and they made the plays,” Western Dubuque coach Casey Bryant said. “We were pretty focused during the rain delay. It was a challenging night to pitch for all four guys. All four guys pitched really well.”