Cynthia Whitehill blasts two home runs, Lynx rally from 9-1 deficit to top Clear Lake
WEBSTER CITY – Cynthia Whitehill did a solid job of masking her excitement as she trotted around the bases in the fourth inning Friday night at Lynx Field.
That cool and calm demeanor was completely gone an inning later when she took a second leisurely stroll around the dirt.
One home run was great. Two long balls in a 30-minute time frame was beyond anything she had ever imagined.
Webster City’s freshman catcher hit the first and second home runs of her budding career, as she helped the Lynx lift themselves out of a crater in a wild 13-12 North Central Conference victory over Clear Lake on the final night of the regular season.
Trailing 9-1 when it came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, WCHS (13-17, 10-4 NCC) unleashed an offensive tsunami that included 12 hits over the final three frames. It snapped a three-game side and sent the Lynx into the postseason with an injection of much-needed momentum.
“Offensively (the girls) did a good job of keeping themselves in the game,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. “We made the most of our at bats and stayed aggressive.”
Whitehill’s power show was the catalyst. Her long, violent upper-cut swing that is taylor made for a game of home run derby infused enthusiasm inside the WCHS dugout when it was sorely needed.
“I was definitely doing everything I could to pick us up,” Whitehill said.
Whitehill’s first dinger came on an outside pitch from Lions’ hurler Kiersten Baalson and she deposited it over the fence in right field for a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Her solo blast in the fifth exited the park in left-center.
“The first one felt really good,” Whitehill said. “Stepping in there the second time I was thinking swing like usual, don’t try to hit another. But as soon as it went off the bat I felt it.”
WCHS erupted for eight hits and eight runs in the fourth to turn a 9-1 deficit into a tie game. Whitehill’s fifth-inning bomb pushed the Lynx in front, 10-9.
Already the beneficiary of seven unearned runs courtesy of five errors in the third inning, Clear Lake (9-17, 4-10 NCC) added three more runs in the sixth to retake the lead, 12-10. But WCHS answered once again in the bottom of the sixth with three more hits and three additional runs to jump back in front for good.
Running for Whitehill, Stacey Meyer scooted home with the winning run on a wild pitch.
Tagged for 16 hits, Lynx senior pitcher Gabbi Hoversten buckled down in the seventh inning and retired the Lions in order to preserve the improbable victory.
“(Hoversten) did a good job of not letting her emotions get the better of her,” Howard said. “Especially later on, she was throwing a little harder and her ball was moving a little more.”
Taylor McKinney went 3 for 3 and drove in three runs out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup for the Lynx. Her one-out single to left in the fourth ignited the onslaught and she added a two-RBI base hit later in the frame.
Clean-up stick Cassidy Nerland smacked three hits, the final one a liner to center that plated a run in the sixth. Hoversten added a RBI double off the fence in right in the fourth and Allie Flaws followed with a RBI line-drive single to center.
Courtney Lampman produced a single and RBI.
Flaws stole her Class 4A-leading 51st base in the first inning, tying the single-season school record held by Jenny (Flora) Vinzant, who swiped 51 in 2001 and again in 2002. Flaws was on her way to owning the record in the fourth when she took off for second, but Baalson hit Taylor Schnathorst with the pitch.
“I really wanted to get (the record), but I’ve got at least one more game,” Flaws said, alluding to the Lynx 4A regional opener against 13th-ranked Boone on Thursday. “But, yeah, I’m pretty happy (to tie the record).”
Flaws has stolen 162 bases in her career, leaving her just six behind Vinzant on the all-time Lynx leaderboard. The record would undoubtedly already be hers had she not missed the second half of her eighth-grade season with a leg injury.
Julia Merfeld and Chloe Mueller both laced three hits for Clear Lake. The Lions roped three doubles in the contest.
WCHS and Boone will face off on the Toreadors’ home field at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The winner will advance to Saturday’s semifinal round at No. 15 Newton.