WEBSTER CITY - There's a theory floating around that, when the larger picture is put in play, the Webster City baseball team didn't do itself any favors by upsetting then top-ranked Clear Lake nine days ago.
With a rematch against the now third-ranked Lions set for tonight, the Lynx are sure to see a somewhat ornery opponent when the Class 3A District 3 semifinal gets underway at 7 p.m. from Lions Field.
Would Clear Lake have had as much motivation had it not dropped a 5-4 decision to WCHS last Wednesday? Maybe not. Then again, this is the postseason where it's win or go home. What more motivation do the Lions and Lynx need?
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
WCHS senior Trey Tesdahl only appears to be flying off the field after scoring a run against Algona Bishop Garrigan last month at Lynx Field. But Tesdahl and his WCHS teammates hope they can fly by third-ranked Clear Lake tonight in a Class 3A District 3 semifinal, set to start at 7 p.m. in Clear Lake.
"Even it was a close game and they beat us (last week), they may come in nice and easy (tonight)," WCHS head coach Troy Smock said. "But how I see it is all I can worry about is my team and I feel better that we got them. I think we think we can beat them again. I really do."
That confidence will be needed in heavy doses when the Lynx (12-13) line up against the defending state champs. Clear Lake (29-5) has won three straight games since that loss to WCHS and would like nothing more than to make a statement as it attempts to navigate its way through a dangerous substate bracket that also features ninth-ranked and North Central Conference champion Algona, 10th-ranked Humboldt and always dangerous Boone.
Led by junior Brock Adams, the Lions are an elite team at the plate, in the field and on the mound. They hit an NCC-best .341 as a team during the regular season and also sported a league-leading 1.93 ERA. WCHS counters with a .289 batting average and 4.64 ERA, ranked seventh and ninth in the conference, respectively.
Adams owns a 6-3 record and 1.59 ERA on the mound and he's the only member of the Lions' regular starting rotation that hasn't faced the Lynx this season. Brandon Tofte (6-0, 1.48 ERA) tossed a five-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over WCHS on June 18. Ben Mason (6-0, 1.46 ERA) was run off the mound after just two innings in the Lynx win a week ago.
Smacking hits and applying pressure in the early innings was key to the upset at Lynx Field - arguably the program's biggest regular season win in more than a decade - and Smock says his club has to sprint out of the gate again tonight.
"The biggest thing for us is how we start," he said. "If we get a couple of hits early and hold them down, we're right there. If we get behind it's tough to come back against anybody, let alone Clear Lake up there."
That onus will fall on the shoulders of the Lynx first four hitters - Ben Mossman, Trey Tesdahl, Drew Fielder and Cal Zahn. They combined for seven of the team's 13 hits and four of the five runs a week ago.
Mossman hits at a .393 clip - tops on the team. Fielder checks in at .389 with 12 RBIs, Zahn owns a .351 average with eight doubles and 17 RBIs, and Tesdahl hits .316 with 20 runs scored.
Zahn was 3-for-3 with a double, run scored and RBI out of the clean-up spot last week.
It will be all hands on deck for WCHS on the bump. Smock was still debating on who would start, most likely either right-hander Daniel Halko (2-1, 2.56 ERA) or southpaw Seth Crouthamel (3-3, 2.21 ERA). They held opponents to batting averages of .157 and .186, respectively, during the regular season.
Crouthamel was the pitcher of record in both earlier meetings. Halko hasn't faced the Lions yet this season.
"I would be extremely pleasantly surprised if we can have somebody go the distance," Smock said. "Both of those guys could pitch and both throw strikes for the most part."
Adams (.448), Pete Swenson (.437) and Mitch Keeran (.390) lead the explosive Clear Lake offense. They've combined to hit eight home runs and drive in 92 runs.
The winner will advance to Monday's district final against either Ballard (11-16) or Humboldt (21-6). They will meet in tonight's first semifinal at Lions Field at 5 p.m.