TEAM TO BEAT
WCHS thumps ’Cats, increases NCC?lead
WEBSTER CITY — Adison Kehoe put himself out on a ledge back in January when he addressed his baseball players at an informal get together.
“I told my boys, ‘You guys are the best team in the North Central Conference if you play to your ability.’ Point blank, that’s what I said,” Kehoe, Webster City’s head coach, said late Wednesday night.
Is he crazy, or is he a mad genius? The way it stands now, his players would say the latter.
The rest of the conference would probably agree.
Kehoe’s rebuilding project took another giant leap in the right direction at Lynx Field Wednesday night, as WCHS bombed 2016 league champion and Class 3A state qualifier Humboldt, 10-1, to cement itself as the frontrunner in the race for conference bragging rights.
The win, coupled with Algona’s 6-0 loss to Iowa Falls-Alden on Wednesday, gave WCHS (10-2, 6-0 NCC) a two-game lead over three teams as the season nears its midpoint. But if the Lynx players keep up with the conference standings, they do a good job of hiding it.
“I just keep playing baseball,” WCHS left fielder Riley Mishler said after a 2 for 2 night with a double and four RBI against Humboldt (10-5, 4-2 NCC). “We just came out like it’s another game and tried to get the win, and we played well as a team.”
Kehoe says there’s a method to his madness. His infectious confidence has seeped into his players and it starts with how the team practices.
“It’s sweat hours, it really is,” Kehoe said. “That’s a very good team we just played. But in the same breath, our boys are all in now. We’re now a team that comes 30 minutes early to practice and leaves an hour late. And our practices are intense, and that carries over to the games.”
It was a combination of yet another standout pitching effort, solid defense, patience at the plate and timely hitting that vaulted WCHS to the lopsided victory.
Junk-ball pitcher Bryan Ferrell relied on his curve and slider to befuddle the Wildcats for six innings. He surrendered just six hits and one earned run to go along with five strikeouts.
The number of fastballs Kehoe called could be counted on two hands. But even when the Wildcats knew the off-speed pitches were coming, they still couldn’t get their timing down. Only Reese Dewinter — he went 3 for 3 with a double — got the better of the match-up against Ferrell. The rest of the team went 3 for 22.
“He’s not your traditional pitcher, but he throws strikes very frequently, and that’s a kid that does not get rattled,” Kehoe said of Ferrell, who is now 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
The senior right-hander also got plenty of help from what has turned out to be a stellar Lynx defense. Second baseman Noah McKinney ran down a couple shots up the middle, Ty Schnathorst covered plenty of real estate out in center to save several hits and Mishler made a leaping grab in the first inning.
“They took us out last year, so we had to come back and get a win,” McKinney said, referring to last year’s 3A district final showdown that the Wildcats won on their way to state.
At the plate, WCHS wore down Humboldt starter Devon Clark by simply staying patient. The hard-throwing right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, but still found his team trailing 2-0.
The Lynx took five walks and five more free bases when batters were hit to go along with their eight hits.
WCHS broke the game open and ran Clark off the mound in the fourth. Corey Wagner delivered the key hit — a two-RBI liner back up the middle to push the Lynx lead to 5-0. After Humboldt went to Cole Clarken in relief, Mishler hit a balloon shot down the left-field line that fell in between three Wildcats for a RBI double.
WCHS added four more runs in the sixth. Mishler, who is hitting .400 on the season, brought two to the plate on a single into left and two batters later Romel Martinez mashed a RBI double to deep left-center.
McKinney, Ferrell, Dylan Steen and Jordan Tanner all added singles. Steen drove in the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly to center in the first frame, and Ferrell had his own RBI sac fly to center in the sixth.
WCHS will resume its league slate at home on Monday against Hampton-Dumont. The only NCC team the Lynx are yet to face is Algona, but Kehoe says the opponents going forward won’t matter.
“With the successes we’ve had, they come with a price,” Kehoe said. “Every single game now, especially in the conference, we’re going to have that big ole’ bull’s-eye on us. This is just the beginning. It’s going to get fun over the next couple of weeks.”
Webster City 10, Humboldt 1
Wednesday at Webster City
Humboldt 000 010 0 — 1 6 4
Web City 101 404 x — 10 8 1
Devon Clark, Colby Clarken (4) and Isaac Thurm. Bryan Ferrell, Caleb Olson (7) and Jordan Tanner. W — Ferrell. L — Clark. 2B — HUM: Reese Dewinter; WC: Riley Mishler, Romel Martinez. RBI — HUM: I. Thurm; WC: Mishler (4), Corey Wagner (2), Ferrell, Martinez, Dylan Steen.