Surging Humboldt foils Lynx postseason plans in district final

An emotional Max Hackbarth (facing) hugs Webster City head coach Adison Kehoe minutes after the Lynx season ended at the hands of Humboldt, 5-3, in the Class 3A District 4 final Monday night at Lynx Field. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The message was sent with a bomb to left field, but it was the bloopers that delivered the goods.

And Webster City could just never catch a break.

Humboldt did everything it takes to succeed in the postseason at Lynx Field Monday night and the Wildcats reward was a spot in the Class 3A Substate 2 final following their 5-3 victory over Webster City in the District 4 final.

Humboldt hit for power and put runners on base at will, and it didn’t matter if it took walks, line shots or excuse-me singles. It applied constant pressure. It never took its foot off the gas. It pitched well. It defended well. And on and on it goes.

“In every facet of the game, they basically won it,” WCHS head coach Adison Kehoe said after an emotional and long meeting with his players following the season-ending loss. “They had key hits that weren’t exactly the hardest hit balls, but they put balls in play. They made plays when they needed to and we honestly didn’t.”

Webster City assistant coach Corbin Kehoe (left) consoles senior shortstop Romel Martinez minutes after the Lynx fell to Humboldt, 5-3, in the Class 3A District 4 final at Lynx Field Monday night. WCHS ended the season at 17-6. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

It’s been quite a postseason ride for Humboldt (18-14). It took down North Central Conference champion Clear Lake in the semifinal round and then topped NCC runner-up WCHS (17-6) for the third time in as many tries. The Wildcats will meet Boone (23-8) for the right to advance to state tonight in Boone.

WCHS expected its season to end at Principal Park in Des Moines, but that dream will have to wait at least 12 more months.

Simply put, for whatever reason, Humboldt just had the Lynx number this season.

“They’re a good team,” WCHS senior catcher Jordan Tanner said after exiting the state with a 2 for 2 performance at the plate with one RBI. “They made the little plays and they got the hits when they needed them.”

Humboldt out hit WCHS 8-7, seven of them coming against Lynx starting pitcher Cameron Moen who worked four innings in a losing effort. Max Hackbarth took over in the fifth and limited the Wildcats to a single hit — a check-swing blooper by Joey Busse that landed just over the head of first baseman Austin Lampman.

Webster City senior Jordan Tanner (center) is tagged out at the plate by Humboldt catcher Isaac Thurm during the second inning of the Class 3A District 4 final at Lynx Field on Monday. Tanner was attempting to score from second on a single to left field off the bat of Tyler Olson. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The Wildcats did all of their damage in the third and fourth innings. Moen got himself in trouble with back-to-back walks to open the third and Owen Newton made him pay with a three-run home run to left field to give Humboldt a 3-0 cushion.

It ended Moen’s more than month-long scoreless innings streak at 221⁄3.

But WCHS answered right back. With two runners aboard and only one out in the last half of the third, Noah McKinney got the Lynx on the board with a RBI single to left field. Dylan Steen followed with a RBI line-drive single to center and Hackbarth loaded the bases with a third consecutive single. Humboldt pitcher Cade Witzke then walked Tanner to bring the tying run to the dish.

Still with the bases loaded with just one out and poised to deliver a damaging blow, Caleb Olson drilled a Witzke fastball towards right-center. But Busse, the Wildcats’ second baseman, had him shaded up the middle and didn’t have to move to snag the liner. He then raced to second and doubled off Hackbarth to end the threat.

Snake bitten. The theme of the night for the Lynx.

Lynx shortstop Romel Martinez dives at a bloop base hit in shallow left field during the fourth inning on Monday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It’s baseball and things happen,” Hackbarth said. “Sometimes you just can’t control it.”

Humboldt jumped right back in front, this time for good, in the fourth. A lead-off infield bloop hit between second and short by Michael Brightly was just a sign of things to come. Three batters later, Isaac Thurm dinked a RBI single into shallow left field, and Busse followed with a nearly identical RBI base knock to push the Wildcats’ margin to 5-3.

“Their hits are in the book,” Tanner said. “A couple of them were just dinkers and you’re just thinking why can’t we catch a break? We were looking forward to getting those two runs back, but we hung our heads a little bit.”

Witzke, just a freshman, pitched like a veteran the remainder of the way. He retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced, including the last five in succession. And even when WCHS did apply pressure, like when Tanner opened the sixth with a single to left, it unraveled quickly. Just two pitches later, Olson bounced into a double play.

“He did a wonderful job and he pitches above his years,” Kehoe said of Witzke. “He stayed low in the strike zone almost the entire game. He made his pitches.”

Noah McKinney turns the corner at third and heads for home during the third inning of Webster City’s 5-3 loss to Humboldt on Monday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WCHS had a chance to strike first in the second inning, but was twice thrown out at the plate. Hackbarth was erased at the dish on an attempted double steal and with two outs Tanner was called out as he attempted to score from second on a Tyler Olson base hit to left.

McKinney joined Tanner with two hits and a RBI.

Humboldt 5, Webster City 3

Class 3A District 4 Final

Monday at Webster City

Humboldt 003 200 0 — 5 8 1

Web City 003 000 0 — 3 7 1

Cade Witzke and Isaac Thurm. Cameron Moen, Max Hackbarth (5) and Jordan Tanner. W — Witzke. L — Moen. HR — HUM: Owen Newton. Multiple hits — HUM: I. Thurm, Newton, Joey Busse; WC: Tanner, Noah McKinney. RBI — HUM: Newton (3), I. Thurm, Busse; WC: McKinney, Tanner, Dylan Steen.