Playing with house money, Lynx ready to tackle another favorite in district final

ALGONA – Humboldt has won nine consecutive games and 17 of its last 18.

Oh, not impressed yet? How about this – after starting the season 2-4, the Wildcats are 21-3 since June 4. Or this – inside a North Central Conference that features 2015 state champion and second-ranked (Class 2A) Clear Lake, Humboldt got out the broom and swept its way to a 14-0 mark and league championship.

Webster City head coach Mark Fisher and his players already know all of this. They respect Humboldt, but when you buck the odds once like the Lynx did in their improbable 9-5 win over Algona in Friday’s postseason opener, there’s no reason to think it can’t happen again.

“The pressure is definitely off of us,” WCHS sophomore Jordan Tanner said. “I think the team has the confidence back and the swagger that we can go out and beat Humboldt.”

WCHS (7-17) will get its chance tonight when it battles Humboldt (23-7) for the Class 3A District 3 title at Bulldog Park. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The winner will advance to Wednesday’s substate final in Boone against either No. 8-ranked Boone or Gilbert.

A frustrating and, OK, at times downright miserable regular season left WCHS off everyone’s radar when the postseason got underway. And even after Friday’s win, head coach Mark Fisher accepts that many people will probably see it as a fluke. A good story, no doubt, but not one that has legs.

That can work in the Lynx favor though. Not only are they playing with house money, but they’ll be able to step onto the diamond with the motivation to prove everyone wrong once again.

“We know that we’re a dangerous team, but we haven’t played up to our potential this year,” Fisher said. “But at the same time, outside of the program, nobody thinks we’re going to do anything. So there’s not that pressure on us at all.”

Humboldt won both regular season meetings. The Wildcats unleashed an offensive show in a 19-6, 5-inning rout in Webster City on June 8. But the Lynx answered by giving Humboldt all it wanted and then some on June 29, a game the Wildcats managed to eek out, 1-0 in 8 innings.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Cameron Moen will likely get the ball for the Lynx tonight. He owns a 3-2 record and 2.63 earned run average in 50 1/3 innings of work. He will be facing Humboldt for the first time this season.

Moen will face a daunting offense, particularly the Big Three for Humboldt. Brady Shelgren (.462 batting average), Devon Clark (.450) and Chris Witzke (.444) have produced a combined six home runs and 103 RBI on the season.

But who Humboldt will go with on the hill is unknown. It most likely won’t be Witzke, the ace of the staff and arguably the best pitcher in the NCC, after he went six innings in a 14-strikeout masterpiece in the Wildcats’ 11-8 district semifinal win over Iowa Falls-Alden on Friday. It was 11-2 in Humboldt’s favor when Witzke exited the game.

Shelgren is 5-1 with a 3.37 ERA; he fanned eight WCHS batters and earned the win on June 8. Clark, who went the distance in the extra-innings shutout win over the Lynx on June 29, sits at 3-2 and possesses a 3.82 ERA.