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Not the miserable heat, a slow start or a very good Humboldt crew could keep the Lynx from doing what they do so well: Win

WCHS catcher Devon Stoakes (right) tags out Humboldt’s Owen Newton (23) to save a run in the first inning on Friday in Slater. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Devon Stoakes was so hot, so tired, that he couldn’t speak in the baked-out evening heat Friday night.

That’s not hyperbole. Webster City’s freshman catcher was at the end of his rope as he stood behind the Lynx dugout at Nite Hawk Field in Slater. He’d just spent two-plus hours crouching in heat that made him feel like he’d lived inside a furnace and it had taken a toll.

“It was just so hot,” Stoakes said between breaths as

he bent over with his hands on his knees. “It even hurt to talk or scream from the dugout. I was just out of breath the entire game.”

That was it. I quickly told Stoakes to take a seat. He didn’t need to be talking to me. What he looked like he needed was an IV bag.

Just 10 feet away, sitting with his back against the dugout in one of the few shaded spots, was WCHS sophomore pitcher Tyler Olson. Shirt off and a blank stare on his face, he too was feeling the worse for wear following his battle against a two-headed monster — a very good Humboldt lineup and heat that topped out in the mid-90s with a heat index of well over 110.

WCHS pitcher Tyler Olson attempts to stay cool and hydrated during Friday’s Class 3A District 3 semifinal against Humboldt in Slater. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It was really tough out there,” Olson said.

Olson and the Lynx won that battle though. Despite an early four-run hole, despite nothing going right, despite suffocating heat that made remembering their own names difficult, WCHS found a way to prevail, 5-4, over the Wildcats in a Class 3A District 3 semifinal.

And if you were surprised at all, then you really haven’t been paying attention this season.

This is what head coach Adison Kehoe and his crew have done over the last two months. In the face of adversity, when everyone thinks it’s over, that’s when the Lynx have been at their best. With the perfect blend of talented veterans and youngsters who bathe in confidence, this WCHS team doesn’t know how to scream uncle.

“To come back from 4-0 is incredible and kudos to the younger guys for putting a complete game together,” WCHS senior all-stater Dylan Steen said.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Steen gave up an awful lot and gambled, really, just to be a part of Friday’s come-from-behind win. Several months ago he was invited to play in Saturday night’s Shrine Bowl in Cedar Falls, but that would have meant missing the Lynx district opener, and quite possibly missing out on the final baseball game of his prep career.

Steen politely declined the invitation to the prestigious event, a decision that had to be gut-wrenching at the time. The Shrine Bowl is a goal of every football player in the state and saying no simply doesn’t happen all that often.

But as Steen celebrated Friday night, he had no regrets.

“I made the right decision,” Steen, who will play football at Wartburg College, said. “I’ve been getting snaps from the guys down there this week and they’re having a good time, but they respect my decision.”

One thing is for certain: Without Steen, it would have been the final game of the season for the Lynx. He did a little bit of everything.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Four plate appearances, four hits. His second double — a two-RBI shot in the fifth inning — brought WCHS out of its malaise and for the first time allowed doubt to creep into the minds of the Humboldt players.

It was fitting that it was Steen who scored the go-ahead run in the seventh on Sean Carver’s two-run double. And it was even more fitting that it was Steen who got the ball and headed to the mound in the seventh inning to collect the save. He is the heartbeat of the team, and that heartbeat is very strong.

And who will get the call on the bump against 10th-ranked Ballard in tonight’s district final? Steen, of course.

Bet against WCHS if you want. But don’t be surprised if the Lynx work their magic once again. It’s not always pretty, but this team knows how to win.

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