NEW SEASON, NEW OPPORTUNITY

ALGONA – Mark Fisher and his players understand the scenario. They know that most people don’t expect Webster City to make the long trip north tonight and return to town with a victory.

But the beauty of the postseason? The underdog and favorite are right back at the start where anything can happen.

Coming off an at times frustrating regular season, Webster City (6-17) will step on Algona’s home diamond this evening to take on the Bulldogs (20-10) in a Class 3A District 3 semifinal. The contest will follow the first semifinal between North Central Conference champion Humboldt (22-7) and Iowa Falls-Alden (8-17), which will get underway at 5 p.m.

The semifinal winners will battle for the district championship on Monday back in Algona.

With 6-5 and 11-1 wins last month, Algona will be out to make it three in a row against the Lynx. What does WCHS have to do to stay in contention? Play exactly like it did on June 6 in Algona and forget about the 6-inning mugging the Bulldogs walked away with on June 27.

“The game up (at Algona), a lot of their runs came on seeing-eye singles and some of it was just luck of the game,” Fisher, the Lynx head coach, said. “(At Webster City) they hit the ball all over the place and there they didn’t. But it will also come down to what kind of defense will we play? We were pretty solid up there, but didn’t play great defense (in the second meeting).”

The offense was decidedly one-sided in each of the two previous match-ups where Algona combined for 18 hits to the Lynx seven. WCHS was particularly silent at home against Bulldogs’ pitcher Nick Stein, who limited the Lynx to just three hits.

“From an offensive standpoint, it was one of those weeks where we weren’t putting good swings on the ball and we weren’t hitting it hard,” Fisher said of the second encounter. “But we swung the bat better (on Tuesday against Boone) and hopefully we can keep that going.”

Stein (3-1 record) could be back on the mound again tonight. Other possibilities for the Bulldogs include Alex Remy, the ace of the staff who holds a 5-1 record and 1.80 earned run average, or Collin Besch, who pitched four innings in the first clash with the Lynx. Besch is 4-1 with a 4.01 ERA.

Fisher plans to give the ball to junior right-hander Bryan Ferrell for a couple of reasons. For starters, Algona hasn’t seen Ferrell yet this season and the coach has liked the way his pitcher has competed in recent outings.

“It’s one of those gut reactions where I like having him in there,” Fisher said of Ferrell. “He has pitched really well in his last two outings … he gives us a different speed.”

Ferrell is 0-3 on the season, but owns a respectable 2.58 ERA. He went the distance in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in extra innings against Humboldt on June 29 and followed it up by allowing just two earned runs in a loss to second-ranked (2A) Clear Lake on July 7.

Ferrell, the Lynx most versatile hurler in terms of pitch variety, will face a potent Algona lineup that is led by Blake Elsbecker and his .450 batting average. Elsbecker has bashed two home runs and driven in 24 runs this season.

Remy (.354), Besch (.320) and Jackson Helmers (.309) all enter with solid averages as well. Remy, Elsbecker and Besch combined to go 7 for 10 against the Lynx in the first game; Stein went 3 for 4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBI in the second clash.

If Algona gets to Ferrell, Fisher has plenty of options out of his bullpen. Cameron Moen (4-3) has the team’s best ERA of 2.63 and Dylan Steen (1-6) throws the hardest on the team.

Ty Schnathorst, a junior center fielder, has been the Lynx most consistent hitter. He’ll take the field this evening boasting a .338 average with 15 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Corey Wagner has a home run to go along with a .291 average and Romel Martinez hits at a .284 clip and has swiped a team-high 19 bases.