NEVER EASY: No. 12 Lynx fend off Lions in 4A regional opener; defending state champs next
WEBSTER CITY – Uncomfortable – in one word, that’s the postseason.
Throw the records out the window; they mean absolutely nothing.
And no lead is ever big enough.
Despite being the heavy favorite, 12th-ranked Webster City had to scratch and claw its way past North Central Conference rival Clear Lake in a Class 4A Region 2 quarterfinal last night at Lynx Field.
After spotting the Lions an early 1-0 lead, the Lynx (25-6) scored single runs in the second, third and fourth innings – right about the time senior all-state pitcher Kaitlyn Biere put it on auto pilot – and advanced to Saturday’s semifinal round, 3-1.
It was Webster City’s third win of the season over Clear Lake and its 11th consecutive victory, but it hardly mirrored the first two meetings. WCHS outscored the Lions 21-0 during the regular season.
“We have a goal to go so far and that rode on (last night), and I think that had something to do with it because we came out too flat,” Biere said after tossing a four-hit, eight-strikeout gem in the circle en route to her 98th career victory. “I knew they would come out swinging though because they’ve seen me twice before and I’ve been here for five years, so they know what’s coming.”
Clear Lake (10-18) slapped three singles in the first inning – one more hit than the Lions got off Biere in 10 regular-season innings – and struck first on a two-out RBI base hit to center by Annie Snyder. It was the first earned run allowed by Biere in 56 innings, dating back to the fourth frame against Humboldt 10 games and 22 days ago.
The Lions put runners at second and third in the second inning, but Biere was able to extract herself from the jam when she got Hannah Bartlett to bounce out to second baseman Abbey Fuhs.
And that was all she wrote for Clear Lake.
Biere retired the final 16 batters she faced, 11 coming on ground balls. With her rise ball staying up in the zone all night, Biere went to her drop ball and forced the Lions to go fishing.
“(Clear Lake) did a good job of coming out and putting the ball in play,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said. “But Kaitlyn’s a good enough pitcher that if something is not working for her she’s got another tool in the shed and she did a good job of realizing it.”
Lions’ hurler Sara Barlow found herself in a similar groove late. She sat down 10 of the final 11 batters she faced.
WCHS senior Tiffany Constable was the only player for either team to jump aboard over the final three innings on a two-out base hit to left in the top of the seventh. She went 2-for-4 and scored a run, while teammate Maddie Anderson finished 2-for-3.
The Lynx scattered eight hits – all singles – including a pair of bunt base hits that led to a run.
“We were able to utilize our speed and if you can catch them off guard it works for you,” Howard said. “It worked in our favor this time.”
Abbey Fuhs drove in the Lynx first run on a line-drive base hit to center with two outs in the second.
WCHS surged ahead 2-1 an inning later on a Biere liner that brought Constable to the dish. Constable hit a one-out blooper down the left-field line for a single and raced all the way around to third on a Lions’ throwing error.
Hannah Myers bunted her way on, stole second and then eventually moved to third with one out in the fourth. There were two outs when Kaylee Schnathorst laid down a beauty down the third-base line that plated Myers.
Biere added a single.
WCHS will immediately jump into the underdog role for Saturday’s regional semifinal against No. 9-ranked Ballard (24-10) in Huxley. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Bombers, who were in attendance watching last night, have the bulk of their roster back from a season ago when they won the 3A state championship. All-state pitcher Kenzie Ihle – last year’s 3A all-tournament team captain – highlights the group. She also happens to be a club teammate of Biere.
“We have nothing to lose on Saturday and we’re excited about it,” Biere said. “Knowing (Ihle) so well, it just makes me want to win even more.”
Will Ballard have the swagger of a state champion, or will that be a burden? Howard expects to get the Bombers best shot.
“We’re going to have to be at the top of our game and they’re going to have to be at the top of their game if they want to beat us,” she said. “We’ve got to take it like it’s just another game and we’ll see what happens.”