BOONE – Webster City was good in its Class 3A District 4 semifinal appearance on a sweltering evening where the heat index hovered in the triple digits on Friday.
But Perry senior Will Whiton was just a little bit better.
Whiton, a South Dakota State football recruit who has been named all-state on both the gridiron and diamond, did a little bit of everything and carried the Blue Jays to a 2-0 victory over the Lynx and into tonight’s district final against Boone.
He pitched a complete-game masterpiece, smoked a triple, stole his 31st and 32nd bases of the season – he hasn’t been thrown out trying to steal, oh by the way – and was responsible for both of Perry’s runs.
So, yeah, not too shabby.
“We knew he was going to be a good pitcher,” WCHS head coach Mark Fisher said of Whiton. “He got in some jams and he got himself out of those jams. He made the pitches he had to … he’s their ace for a reason.”
Whiton did pull off a couple of Houdini-esque escapes, but he also had some help from WCHS (8-16). Twice the Lynx ran themselves out of innings in the second and third when they had guys in scoring position. Base running mistakes led to easy outs at third base to thwart potential scoring chances.
“Some of those (base running miscues) are youthful mistakes and some is situational stuff,” Fisher said.
Whiton didn’t need much help, as he tossed a three-hitter with six strikeouts and four walks. He dug deep and made the pitches at critical times and forced WCHS to strand seven runners on base, six of them in scoring position.
“We did everything we needed to do to win that game other than just come up with that one or two hits in the right situations,” Fisher said. “We pitched well enough, we defended well enough … it’s a night and day difference from where we started the season.”
WCHS loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Whiton fanned the next two batters. The Lynx packed the bases again in the sixth, this time with no outs, but again Whiton had the answer. Staring at a 3-1 count, he rifled the next two pitches by Bryan Ferrell for the first out, got Cole Reigelsberger to hit a grounder that led to a force-out at the plate, and then induced a ground out off the bat of Jordan Moen.
Noah McKinney led off the sixth for WCHS with a walk. Cal Zahn followed with a shot to the gap in left-center for a double, and Max Hackbarth was plunked for the second time.
Whiton sat the Lynx down in order in the seventh.
Perry (15-15) got all the offense it would need in the bottom of the first. Whiton reached on the game’s only error and quickly stole second and third. Nick Fellom came on as a courtesy runner and scored on a RBI sacrifice fly to center by Kyle Nevitt to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
But that was all Perry could muster off Lynx eighth-grade pitcher Dylan Steen, who surrendered just two hits in 32?3 innings. He was forced off the mound with two outs in the fourth after Blake Lansing lined a single off his left thigh.
“He did a good job of just clearing his mind. He just went out there and threw,” Fisher said of Steen, who struck out three and walked two. “I was really worried he was going to get in his own head, so I give him a lot of credit.”
Daniel Halko came on in relief and went the rest of the way. He also gave up two hits, and walked and fanned two in 21?3 innings.
Whiton gave Perry an insurance run in the fifth when he bashed a two-out triple into the gap in right-center. He scored on a RBI infield hit by Zach Roberts, who finished 2-for-2 and also swiped two bases.
McKinney and Moen were responsible for the Lynx other two hits. McKinney hammered a line-drive single back up the middle in the first and was standing on third when the inning ended. Moen lashed his own single to center in the fifth and also made his way to third.
It wasn’t the outcome WCHS wanted, but the program jumped by leaps and bounds over the course of the two-month season. After starting off 0-9, the Lynx went 8-7 over their final 15 games.
“We were a much better team at the end of the season than we were at the beginning of the season,” Fisher said. “But we can’t just stop here. We’re trying to build a program here. We want to get to the point where beating Webster City is a big win. We just need to make sure that we pick it up from here and keep moving forward next year.”
WCHS loses just two seniors – Halko and Zahn.