ALGONA – Playing with fire is always a dangerous choice. Eventually, whether you like it or not, you’re going to feel the burn.

In Webster City’s case, that pain will last the entire offseason.

After working itself out of sticky situations in the second and third innings, the Lynx finally felt the sting as Humboldt rolled up five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally for a 6-2 victory in the Class 3A District 3 final at Bulldog Park Monday night.

Winners of 10 straight games and 18 of 19, the Wildcats (24-7) advanced to tonight’s Substate 2 showdown against Gilbert (19-13) in Boone at 7 p.m. The winner will earn one of the eight spots in next week’s state tournament field.

Gilbert moved on to the substate by upsetting eighth-ranked Boone, 6-3, on Monday.

WCHS (7-18) was left to ponder what went wrong. Despite managing just one hit all night, the Lynx were six outs away from a second straight monumental upset. But the inability to make plays on back-to-back bunts loaded the bases and Humboldt came through with four clutch hits when it needed them the most to prevail.

“At the end of the day, we just made too many mistakes,” WCHS head coach Mark Fisher said. “That’s not to take anything away from our guys because they battled and kept their heads up, but you can’t keep putting yourself in those situations and expect to win.”

Isaac Thurm sparked Humboldt’s five-run sixth inning with a lead-off single down the line in right that one-hopped into the glove of a diving Dylan Steen, the Lynx freshman outfielder. Malcolm Boyd and Mason Wickett were responsible for the bunts – Boyd reached base on a throwing error and Wickett was safe at first when no one covered the bag – and Michael Brightly earned a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 2.

“That’s stuff we work on, but at the same time, you get in a situation like that, the second round of districts, and that’s when the nerves come up,” Fisher said. “That’s why you see so much bunting at this level … high schoolers are high schoolers and they’re going to make those mistakes.”

Fisher pulled starting pitcher Cameron Moen and went to freshman reliever Caleb Olson, but on his first pitch, Wildcats’ lead-off stick Chris Witzke went the other way with a line-drive double down the left-field line that scored two more and pushed Humboldt in front, 4-2. Devon Clark followed with a RBI ground out and Reese DeWinter plated another run on a base hit up the middle.

Moen took the loss after working five innings. He allowed five hits and four earned runs, and also issued five walks.

Moen was able to extricate himself from trouble early on. Humboldt put runners at second and third in the first inning, but came up empty. In the second, the Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs, but three straight pop-ups kept the game scoreless.

A lead-off double into right-center by Thurm helped push Humboldt up 1-0 in the fourth. Boyd followed with a base hit to center and courtesy runner Hudson Gargano was called safe at the plate on a bang-bang play.

WCHS manufactured a run to knot the game at 1 in the fifth. Cole Reigelsberger was plunked by a Brady Shelgren pitch and eventually moved around to third. A Shelgren offering that was high reached the backstop and allowed Reigelsberger to slide in head-first with the tying run on the wild pitch.

The Lynx were still without a hit in the sixth inning when Corey Wagner unleashed a bomb that hit off the top of the fence in straightaway center. Ty Schnathorst, who reached base on an error, scored easily to give WCHS the 2-1 lead and Wagner strolled into second with a stand-up double.

But that was all Shelgren and Witzke, who took over in the seventh inning, were willing to offer. The Lynx only had three other base runners and all three reached on errors. Shelgren’s heat led to four strikeouts and he didn’t walk any batters.

WCHS popped it up eight times, four of them on the infield.

“We were just a little behind him,” Fisher said. “But you have to give credit to Shelgren because he pitched phenomenally.”