NO PRESSURE: Lynx head into district clash with Boone as underdog

WEBSTER CITY – The pressure valve on the Webster City baseball team has been released.

Nobody outside of the Lynx dugout and on their side of the bleachers will pick Webster City to knock off Boone in a Class 3A District 14 semifinal tonight on the Toreadors’ home field at 7 p.m.

Boone (20-10) beat WCHS twice during the regular season – 8-1 on June 13 in Boone and 7-1 on July 9 in Webster City – and the Toreadors controlled both games.

But in the one-and-done format that is the postseason, Lynx head coach Troy Smock has preached one simple fact: Anything can happen.

“Boone is a really good team and they hit tremendously, but when we look back (on the two previous meetings) there are things that we could have done to be in those games,” Smock said. “Everything counts this time.”

WCHS (8-18) left nine runners stranded on base in the first encounter and 10 in the rematch. Get a key hit or two this time around and who knows what will happen.

“Leaving the runners on, part of that is a huge credit to them, but if we can just get that timely hit that will give us a chance,” Smock said.

The Toreadors possess one of the more potent offenses in the class. They hit ..344 as a team – the fifth-best average in 3A – and lead the class in home runs with 18.

Brett Slight sets the table for Boone. He hit .433, cranked five home runs and drove in 25 during the regular season.

The Toreadors boast seven everyday players that hit .308 or better.

Smock will turn the ball over to sophomore right-hander Daniel Halko to try to shut down the Toreadors. Halko – the ace of the Lynx staff – owns a 3-3 record and 5.53 earned run average. He fanned 46 batters in 441?3 innings of work during the regular season.

Halko is also one of the staff leaders in command of his pitches. He walks only one batter every two innings on average, and that type of control could help turn the tide from the previous meetings.

“In the first game, six of their eight runs reached base by walk or hit by pitch, and in the second game they got four (runs) on errors, walks or hit by pitches,” Smock said. “Maybe they get a base hit in some of those situations, but I feel like we gave them more than they needed.”

Halko hasn’t faced Boone this season. Conversely, the Toreadors’ top two arms – Ryan Sunstrom (7-3, 1.75 ERA) and Alex Davis (5-2, 1.85 ERA) – never stepped on the mound against the Lynx.

Sunstrom and Davis own a combined 120 strikeouts.

Smock says his team has spent the majority of the week working on its approach at the plate. The Lynx take a .265 average into the postseason.

“We’ve really worked on hitting and getting that timely hit because that’s the way we’re going to beat them,” Smock said. “At this point in the season your defense is what it is.”

Juniors Ben Mossman (.378), Trey Tesdahl (.359) and Dylan Fielder (.357) lead the charge for the Lynx. Fielder leads the team in home runs (4) and RBIs (18).

Doug Stoakes is second on the team in RBIs (14).

WCHS will take the field with four losses in its last five games, but the schedule wasn’t exactly kind. The Lynx suffered setbacks against second-ranked (3A) and North Central Conference champion Clear Lake, formerly ranked (1A) Algona Bishop Garrigan and Boone during that stretch.

“As far as the win-loss record at the end, that’s tough,” Smock said. “But I think it showed our kids that we can hang with those teams,”

Humboldt (21-6) and Iowa Falls-Alden (15-9) will square off in the other District 14 semifinal, which will start at 5 p.m. in Boone.

The two semifinal winners will meet in the district final on Monday at 7 p.m. in Boone.