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Jul 13

Wildcat Baseball Playoff Primer

By: Nathan Bloechl — nathanb@977thebolt.com

Humboldt, Iowa — The Humboldt Wildcat baseball team will open their post-season in the Class 3A Substate 2 District 2 playoffs taking on North Central Conference Champion Webster City, Friday evening.

Humboldt was swept by the Lynx this season, losing 10-1 at Webster City and falling 12-0 at home on July 5th.

The Details:

Who: Humboldt Wildcats (18-11) vs. Webster City (18-4)

Where: Gilbert High School — Gilbert, Iowa

When: Friday, July 14th at 5:00 p.m.

Coverage: FM 97.7 The Bolt – Pre-Game 4:30 p.m.

The Opponent:

It was been an absolute 180 degree turnaround for the Webster City Lynx under first-year head coach Adison Kehoe. Kehoe and his ball-club clinched their first outright North Central Conference championship since 2000 and weren’t really troubled in doing so.

One of the biggest reasons for their turnaround has been the play of standout LHP Max Hackbarth, who has completely handcuffed opposing hitters in 2017. Sitting in the low 80’s and featuring a plus breaking ball — which he can throw out of various arm slots — Hackbarth has worked to the tune of a 6-0 record with a minuscule 0.45 ERA.

The bats have also came up huge in big moments for the Lynx this season. As a team, Webster City is batting .320, and while they don’t have a lot of extra base hits (32 XBH’s, 5th NCC), they rarely strike out. Their 115 strike-out’s rank dead last in the conference. Their .432 OBP tops the conference as well.

Sophomore Dylan Steen and Senior Riley Mishler have been two of the bigger bats for the Lynx this season. Junior lead-off man Romel Martinez leads the team with 23 runs batted in.

Catcher Jordan Tanner has struggled some with the bat in 2017, compiling a .217/.304/.250 slash, but has displayed his rifle of a right arm multiple times this season, throwing out seven base-runners trying to advance on him.

Humboldt: 

You know expectations are high when there’s chatter of a “down season” when Humboldt is 18-11  and is the lone other team above .500 team in the NCC. Sporting just one senior in the starting line-up the Cats are simply a very young team. That’s not to say they’ve been short on talent, however.

Multiple players have taken the second year “jump” so to speak and some have even become elite regulars. A trio of sophomores has given Humboldt loads of offensive production down the stretch, which aided them in winning eight of their final ten.

INF/P Joey Busse, enjoyed a sublime sophomore campaign hitting .330, raising his average by more than .100 points from last year. 1B/P Owen Newton has been the everyday clean-up hitter and socked a team-high two long-balls while driving in 23.

A mid-season call-up last year, Michael Brightly has finished his sophomore year strong, hitting .301, while driving in 14.

As expected the beat for Humboldt goes as Devon Clark goes. The senior had a fair amount of pressure put on him this year following the departures of stars Chris Witzke and Brady Shelgren. Clark responded by slashing .433/.540/.578 with eight doubles and a home run.

Clark has played 3B, SS, 2B, has been the de facto ace as well as the unquestioned leader of the squad in 2017. Junior Reese DeWinter parlayed his strong second half as a sophomore into a very good junior year this season. DeWinter led the team in runs batted in with 26 and also had a team-leading three triples.

While the peripherals aren’t great, the hard numbers of the 2017 pitching staff are good. Humboldt lost 123 2/3 dominant innings from the aforementioned Shelgren and Witzke. Senior Devon Clark is the staff leader in ERA at 2.41. 8th graders Colby Clarken and Cade Witzke look the part at a young age and could be bookend starters in a years time.

Owen Newton has given Thurm good innings this season as well. The opening day starter is 3-4 with a 4.64 ERA.

A sleeper to keep an eye in the post-season is sophomore Joey Busse. Busse has battled an arm injury but has come back strong appearing in three games, allowing just one run in 9 1/3 innings.

X-Factor:

Head Coach Jason Thurm vs. Head Coach Adison Kehoe

While Kehoe and the Lynx have enjoyed a stellar season, this will be the coach’s first playoff run as the lead man. Jason Thurm eclipsed the 300 win mark this season and has coached in countless big games. If anyone knows what buttons to press in a must-win game, gamblers would be wise to bet on Thurm.

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