Halko, Lynx deliver upset win over No. 10 Garrigan

WEBSTER CITY – Webster City sits in the cellar in the North Central Conference baseball standings. Tenth-ranked (Class 1A) Algona Bishop Garrigan resides just one rung from the top.

So Friday’s clash at Lynx Field was a no-brainer, right?

Uh, wrong.

Confident and determined to the bitter end, WCHS knocked on that door and there was finally an answer, as sophomore right-hander Daniel Halko pitched the Lynx to a landmark 6-4 upset victory over the Golden Bears.

After five losses by one or two runs this season, WCHS (4-11, 2-6 NCC) couldn’t help but celebrate the fact that a nail-biter finally went its way.

“This was huge for our guys and the nice thing is we were just playing baseball,” WCHS head coach Troy Smock said. “It feels very good.”

Playing small ball at the plate and constantly applying pressure on the bases were keys to the Lynx success, but Halko’s performance was every bit as important. Working ahead all night, Halko’s 107-pitch performance included four strikeouts and only three walks. He gave up eight hits, but only one that went for extra bases.

“The difference (Friday night) was getting first-pitch strikes in and our defense being in the game when they needed to be,” Halko said. “Being relaxed on the mound kept me in it because I never doubted my teammates or myself.”

Halko retired the first two batters in each of the first three innings and got the lead-off man in the fourth. He sat down the Golden Bears (15-8, 6-2 NCC) in order in the seventh.

“Daniel definitely had his best stuff,” Smock said. “Getting those guys out early in the innings, you kind of choke the life out of them and that’s what he did.”

WCHS jumped ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth. Alex Oswald belted an RBI double to left-center and Halko later scored on a balk. The Lynx also used their bread-and-butter running game to force a rundown between first and second and Garrigan took the bait, which allowed another runner to race home from third.

Garrigan loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but only pushed one run across.

Oswald, who lashed two of the Lynx six hits, delivered an RBI single to right in the bottom of the fifth and a Garrigan error allowed another run to score to push the cushion to 5-1.

A line shot down the left-field line by Dustin Miller and a two-RBI base hit by Zac Kibby helped bring the Golden Bears within a run, 5-4, in the sixth, but again Halko worked out of a bases loaded jam by getting Reece Wadle to pop out to Ben Mossman at shortstop.

WCHS went back to its bag of tricks in its half of the sixth to plate an insurance run. Cal Zahn shelled a one-out base hit to center and raced to second on a botched pick-off attempt.

Two batters later Nelson Ball hit a towering shot on the infield that Garrigan pitcher Ben Vaske and third baseman Tyler Schnurr both called; they collided and the ball fell to the ground. Zahn sprinted to third on the error and Ball rounded first and goaded the Golden Bears into another rundown. Zahn then took off for home and scored when the throw to the plate was high.

The usually stoic Smock turned and gave a fist pump in the third-base coach’s box when the Lynx tacked on the insurance run.

“I was excited because we’ve been in that situation so many times where we need to get one more (run) to get that breathing room, so that was huge,” Smock said. “We’re never going to be an orthodox team. We’re scoring runs on passed balls and all kinds of weird things and that might be just the kind of team we have and that’s fine. But we’re becoming a dangerous team that can take someone to the brink.”

Mossman, Halko and Trey Tesdahl added singles in the win.

Now on a two-game winning streak, WCHS will attempt to keep the momentum tonight when it hosts Algona High at 7:30 p.m.

“This win (over Garrigan) is huge because they’re a good team,” Halko said. “Now we just need to keep playing hard and hopefully this turns it around for us.”