FARLEY, Iowa — With one swing of the bat, Sawyer Nauman changed Western Dubuque’s fortunes on Monday night.
The junior first baseman hit a towering home run to left-centerfield to lead off a sixth-inning surge and rally the Bobcats to a 3-2 victory over defending Iowa Class 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier at Farley Park. The Saints won the second game, 9-2, to salvage the Mississippi Valley Conference split.
“Xavier is a state tournament-caliber team, just like we’d like to think we’re a state tournament team, and this was the kind of game you see down in Des Moines,” Nauman said after hitting his second home run of the season. “So it’s definitely a good win for us.
“We only had one hit in the first five innings and needed to get something going. It’s a good feeling, especially being an upperclassman now, to come through and give the team the momentum we needed in that situation. The wind definitely helped it, but I’ll take it.”
Nauman’s home run pulled the Bobcats within 2-1 and triggered an inning in which the Bobcats batted around. Payton Quagliano followed with a base hit, and Casey Perrenoud bunted him to second. The tying run came across when catcher Bryn Vantiger reached on an infield single and took second on an overthrow.
Carter Kluesner drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
“Coach (Casey) Bryant always preaches ‘Get a good swing with two strikes,’ and I just wanted to get it deep enough in the air,” Kluesner said. “Fortunately, I was able to do that. But it all started with Sawyer’s home run. That really got us going on the bench and gave us confidence.”
Perrenoud outdueled Ben Kisting in a matchup of pitching aces. The senior right-hander scattered three hits and struck out eight in the complete-game win.
“The game plan was to get ground balls to the right side, and we got seven or eight of them, and the guys played really well behind me,” Perrenoud said. “I really liked the way we battled, especially in the sixth inning.
“I played fall ball with Kisting a few years ago and knew it’d be a pitchers’ duel. It’s always fun to pitch against someone you know and kind of one-up them.”
Western Dubuque collected five of its six hits in the sixth inning. Tucker Nauman had two of them.
Xavier opened the scoring in the top of the second. Alex Neal drew a one-out hit batsman and came around to score on Jaxon Rexroth’s two-out single up the middle. The Saints tacked on another run in the sixth, thanks to a pair of Bobcats errors and a two-out single from Neal.
In the night cap, Jack Lux homered in the top of the first for Xavier, but Quagliano answered with an RBI single in the bottom half.
The Saints scored three in the third on RBI singles by Nick Banowetz and Miles Butkowski and a throwing error. Tyler Dupont doubled in two more in the fourth to make it 6-1.
Western Dubuque got one of those runs back in the bottom half on Ben Bryant’s sacrifice fly to centerfield. But Xavier added two more in the sixth on a Lux RBI double and a Banowetz RBI single. Bryce Serovy drove in the final run in the seventh to make it 9-2.