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WCHS out to buck recent trend against NCC rival Lions in substate semis

Lynx will host this evening at 7 p.m.

WCHS senior Sean Carver nears third base on his way to the plate against Eagle Grove on Friday. He drove in four runs in the Lynx 10-0 win and he’ll be in his familiar clean-up spot in the lineup for tonight’s Class 3A Substate 2 semifinal against Clear Lake. The first pitch is set for 7 p.m. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The stakes increase for the sixth-ranked Webster City baseball team this evening, as it will welcome North Central Conference rival Clear Lake to Lynx Field for a Class 3A Substate 2 semifinal game at 7 p.m.

The winner will advance to Wednesday’s substate final against either Waverly-Shell Rock (31-7) or Humboldt (23-9) at a site to be determined following the semifinal round.

To put it bluntly, this has been the round of death for WCHS in recent years, particularly under head coach Adison Kehoe, who is in his fifth season in charge. The Lynx have lost in the substate semifinal round in each of the past five seasons, and they haven’t reached the substate final round since 2008.

Clear Lake (17-14) will be out to push that dubious streak to six straight seasons, and the Lions enter with plenty of momentum. They punished fellow league foe Algona in the quarterfinal round, 18-1 in five innings, behind an eight-run first.

WCHS (25-1), meanwhile, disposed of Eagle Grove with relative ease, 10-0 in six innings, in its postseason opener, but it wasn’t the team’s finest performance of the season.

What does all of that mean for the third meeting of the season between the two teams tonight? Not much, probably. As Kehoe has said many times, when league rivals collide, you can throw records and statistics right out the window. It’s which team goes out and takes it that will prevail.

“They’re obviously swinging the stick right now, so it’s going to be a good game,” WCHS senior Tyler Olson said of the match-up with the Lions.

Olson pitched WCHS to two regular season wins over Clear Lake — 6-3 on June 2 in Clear Lake and 10-1 on June 21 in Webster City.

But Olson will be unavailable to pitch this evening after he exceeded 65 pitches in the win over Eagle Grove Friday night.

So who will get the ball for the Lynx? Kehoe kept that decision close to his vest, but it will be one of three options — Chase Rattenborg, Trey Lyons or Zach Dyvig. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see all three in fact, particularly if the game is close.

Dyvig boasts an 8-0 record and 0.85 ERA, and he faced the final two batters of the game when WCHS beat Clear Lake on the road. Rattenborg is 6-0 with a 2.56 ERA, and Lyons holds a 5-1 mark with a 4.32 ERA.

Whoever is on the bump for WCHS faces a tough task, as the Lions have plenty of offensive weaponry.

“That’s a swinging team,” Kehoe said. “From here on out, if we want to win we have to go out and play to win. There are no buttons to push, but individual ownerships that all of the guys have to take starting (tonight).”

Clear Lake ace Jett Neuberger, a southpaw, started against Algona on Friday, but his availability due to pitch count restrictions is unknown. Neuberger is 4-2 on the season with a 2.18 ERA, and he baffled WCHS in the first meeting before he exited with the lead in the sixth inning.

Other potential options for the Lions are Carson Toebe (3-2, 2.15 ERA) and Eric Ritter (3-4, 2.77 ERA). Ritter was on the hook for the loss to the Lynx in the second meeting.

If WCHS wins, it will host the substate final on Wednesday.

AT A GLANCE

Who: Clear Lake (17-14) at No. 6 Webster City (25-1).

What: Class 3A Substate 2 semifinal.

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Where: Lynx Field, Webster City.

At Stake: A spot in the 3A Substate 2 final against either Waverly-Shell Rock (31-7) or Humboldt (23-9) on Wednesday. WCHS will host as long as it remains in the bracket.

Previous 2021 Meetings: WCHS won 6-3 on June 2 in Clear Lake and 10-1 on June 21 in Webster City.

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