Late-season swoon leaves Lynx baffled, frustrated

Humboldt ends WCHS?bid for repeat NCC?crown; offensive struggles all mental, not physical, Kehoe says

The WCHS battery of pitcher Max Hackbarth (5) and catcher Jordan Tanner confer during Monday’s game against Humboldt. Hackbarth lost his second straight start despite not allowing an earned run. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — With a veteran club that has state tournament aspirations standing directly in front of him, Webster City head baseball coach Adison Kehoe didn’t pull any punches as he addressed the group at Lynx Field late Monday night.

The meeting down the first-base line was long and the message was simple: It’s time to look in the mirror and make some tough decisions. And he included himself into the equation.

“The flaws and faults in this game are on me as a coach because I have let too many things just kind of go,” Kehoe said after WCHS played timid and stumbled against Humboldt, 3-2. “I need to do better as a coach of putting the hammer down on certain things and letting the boys know that this whole just showing up thing is not going to fly. I mean, it can, but you’re going to have fun getting ready for football after the first district game.”

The frustration was evident from the entire group after the Lynx fell for the second time this season to the Wildcats — a setback that effectively ended any hope they had of claiming a second consecutive North Central Conference title. WCHS (14-4, 10-3 NCC) now sits two games behind Clear Lake in the standings.

Humboldt (12-13, 7-5 NCC) received a complete-game, two-hit gem from right-handed pitcher Jacob Thurm. He allowed just two singles to lead-off hitter Romel Martinez, while the rest of the Lynx squad went a combined 0 for 19.

WCHS left fielder Caleb Olson dives for a liner off the bat of Humboldt’s Joey Busse during the second inning on Monday at Lynx Field. Olson came up with the catch to get the Lynx out of a bases loaded jam. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Thurm didn’t strike out a single batter, but he didn’t give up many hard-hit balls either. Lazy fly balls and grounders were the norm for the Lynx, who didn’t push a base runner past first after the third inning.

Offensive wobbles have plagued WCHS in recent games, but Kehoe doesn’t see any physical issues with his club. He thinks it’s all about that valuable piece of real estate between the ears.

“It’s all mental right now,” he said. “It’s the little things and I’ve got to get them to trigger whatever I need to in their brains that when they’re on the field it’s with a purpose, and I haven’t done that yet. I do not question their desire to win or their ability to win. But I question sometimes where they are at mentally at certain parts of the game.”

Humboldt finished with five hits and handed Lynx senior southpaw Max Hackbarth his second loss in his last two outings on the bump. Hackbarth went 52⁄3 innings and fanned nine without giving up an earned run.

In the two losses, Hackbarth has surrendered just five hits and no earned runs against 20 strikeouts in 112⁄3 innings.

WCHS senior Cameron Moen watches a pop-up off his bat against Humboldt on Monday. The Lynx collected just two hits in a 3-2 loss to the Wildcats. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Three errors proved costly for WCHS, much like they did in a 3-0 loss to Clear Lake a week earlier when Hackbarth allowed just one hit.

A dropped fly ball with two outs in the first inning resulted in a Humboldt run. The Wildcats threatened again in the second and had the bases loaded with two outs when Joey Busse turned on a Hackbarth fastball and blasted a liner into left field, but Caleb Olson made a diving catch to get the Lynx out of the jam unscathed.

WCHS tied the game in the bottom of the first on a RBI sacrifice fly by Dylan Steen and then jumped in front 2-1 in the second when Olson raced home from third on a wild pitch.

It remained a one-run WCHS lead until the sixth inning when the Wildcats plated the tying and go-ahead runs. A botched throw on a bunt brought the tying run to the dish and with two outs and a 2-2 count, Cade Witzke roped a RBI single into left field off Steen, who had just taken over for Hackbarth, to put Humboldt in front for good.

“The bunt is one thing, and then the dropped pop fly in the first inning … we’ve done these things thousands of times,” Kehoe said. “We’re in this rut right now of taking plays and innings off, and you can’t do that against good teams.

Webster City junior Dylan Steen (right) slides into second with a stolen base as Humboldt shortstop Joey Busse prepares for a shot-hop throw during Monday’s NCC contest at Lynx Field. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“Our losses, we’ve given. We haven’t been outplayed, we’ve given these games away.”

Busse led Humboldt offensively with a 2 for 4 night. Reece DeWinter and Hudson Gargano added singles.

Steen struck out one in one inning of relief work. Tyler Olson came on with two outs in the seventh and fanned the only batter he faced.

Humboldt 3, Webster City 2

Monday at Webster City

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Humboldt 100 002 0 — 3 5 2

Web City 110 000 0 — 2 2 3

Jacob Thurm and Isaac Thurm. Max Hackbarth, Dylan Steen (6), Tyler Olson (7) and Jordan Tanner. W — J. Thurm. L — Hackbarth. Multiple hits — HUM: Joey Busse; WC: Romel Martinez. RBI — HUM: Cade Witzke; WC: Steen.