Lynx face an emotional end to a magical season in district final

An emotional Adison Kehoe (facing), Webster City’s head coach, hugs Dylan Steen (16), one of his four seniors, following the Lynx 8-3 loss to 10th-ranked Ballard in the Class 3A District 3 final Monday night in Slater. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

SLATER — Caleb Olson made two diving catches look easy Monday evening. Words were much harder for the Webster City senior as reality began to set in while the stands emptied at Nite Hawk Field.

All good things end eventually.

“You know it’s coming, but it just goes by so fast,” Olson, who somehow kept his emotions in check, said. “As a senior it sucks, but life goes on.”

A surprising season that saw WCHS reach 20 wins for the first time this century was halted by 10th-ranked Ballard, 8-3, in the Class 3A District 3 final. The fundamentally sound Bombers (25-8) were simply better at the little things, and keyed by a five-run fourth inning they advanced to tonight’s Substate 2 final against Boone, which beat Greene County, 7-2, in the District 4 final on Monday.

“The better team won,” WCHS head coach Adison Kehoe said. “There’s a reason they’ve won 25 games and there’s a reason they’ve been in the top 10 all year. It’s not a fluke.”

WCHS shortstop Tyler Olson (3) skies for the throw as Ballard’s Cody Wolfe (10) slides into second safely on Monday at Slater. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Ballard out-hit the Lynx 10-4 and also seized on five walks and three hit batters to apply pressure in nearly every inning.

The Bombers bunted. They worked counts. They stole bases. They bunted some more. And, eventually, they broke it open.

“We knew going in they were a great team and we were going to have to play our best game to have a chance, but we just had a few things not go our way,” WCHS senior Dylan Steen, who suffered the loss on the mound, said.

Ballard scored single runs in the first and third innings, but it was the fourth when it essentially put the Lynx away. The Bombers had just two hits in the frame — a bunt single by Logan Harmeyer and a line-drive RBI base knock by Brooks Fleischmann — but earned four free passes on walks and batters being hit by pitches. A ground ball off the bat of Kade Reinertson brought two runs around to make it 7-0.

WCHS, which had just one hit through four innings, refused to quit though. Staring at the sizable deficit, the Lynx responded with a three-run fifth to close the gap to four runs. Beau Klaver ignited the flurry when he turned on a Nic Edwards pitch and ripped it into the gap in left-center for a lead-off double. Back-to-back walks to CJ Hisler and Devon Stoakes loaded the bases with no outs.

WCHS freshman Devon Stoakes claps towards the dugout following his second hit against Ballard in Monday’s district final at Slater. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Zach Dyvig plated the Lynx first run on a sacrifice fly to right field, and two batters later Steen pulled them within 7-3 on a two-RBI base hit back up the middle.

But WCHS had just one more hit over the final two frames and never moved a runner past second base.

Stoakes collected half of the Lynx hits on singles in the third and seventh innings.

Edwards, Reinertson and Cody Wolfe all smacked two hits for Ballard. Edwards also secured the win on the mound after giving up just three hits in five innings of work. Jack Luster and Wolfe each worked an inning late, as the three combined to strike out four batters.

Steen allowed six hits during his final four-inning stint on the bump. Olson took over in the fifth and gave up four hits.

WCHS seniors Caleb Olson (facing) and Dylan Steen share one final embrace as teammates following Monday’s loss to 10th-ranked Ballard, 8-3, in the Class 3A District 3 final at Slater. Olson and Steen have been starting members for 56 victories over the last three seasons. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

It was an emotional goodbye for Kehoe, who hugged each of his seniors a little tighter following the final team huddle in shallow right field following the contest.

“Caleb and (Carson) Struchen and Dylan were my first kids when I graduated from college,” Kehoe said. “I coached them when they were sluggers and stuff like that, and to see them from the fifth grade to now on the baseball field … it’s been incredible for what they’ve done for the community and everything else. You can’t really ask for better seniors.”

Steen, an all-state player a season ago, moved up to the varsity level as an eighth grader and has been a constant in the lineup over the past four seasons. He and Olson have both started on the last three WCHS teams that combined to win 56 games.

Yes, Monday’s loss was tough to take. But not as tough as removing the Lynx uniform for the final time.

“A loss is a loss, but when it’s over that’s when you’re the most upset,” Steen said. “There have been a lot of goodbyes this year and this one is the hardest for me.”

WCHS senior Carson Struchen slides into the dish with one of the Lynx three fifth-inning runs against Ballard on Monday in Slater. The 10th-ranked Bombers won the Class 3A District 3 final, 8-3. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

But the seniors also know the future of the program is in good hands. Among the 10 starters — nine position players and a designated hitter — on the lineup card Monday night, there were three eighth graders, three freshmen and two sophomores.

Olson hopes his younger teammates cherish the sport moving forward.

“Most people think baseball in the summer is a waste of time, but it’s not. It’s fun and it’s something I’m going to remember for a long time,” he said. “Not a lot of people saw this (success) coming this year. And I just told these younger guys that there’s a bright future.”

Ballard 8, Webster City 3

Class 3A District 3 Final

Monday at Slater

Web City 000 030 0 — 3 4 1

Ballard 101 501 x — 8 10 0

Dylan Steen, Caleb Olson (5) and Devon Stoakes. Nic Edwards, Jack Luster (6), Cody Wolfe (7) and Kade Reinertson. W — Edwards. L — Steen. Multiple hits — WC: Stoakes; Ballard: Edwards, Wolfe, Reinertson. 2B — WC: Beau Klaver. RBI — WC: Steen (2), Zach Dyvig; Ballard: Luster, Reinertson, Wolfe, Brooks Fleischmann.