Cubs catch state baseball fever

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Humboldt High junior Jacob Manbeck has been a steady force behind the plate for Humboldt High’s Cubs this season. The Cubs open Kansas Class 2-1A State Baseball Tournament action Friday against Sedan in Emporia.

Humboldt High’s baseball seniors and head coaches can pinpoint where the drive to the state tournament began this season.
“We had three goals set at the beginning of the season. They were win the Tri-Valley League, win the Walter Johnson Tournament and get to the state tournament,” said Andrew Whitaker, senior pitcher and first baseman.
“When we lost the Walter Johnson tournament (Humboldt’s home tournament) that’s when this team’s mood changed. We haven’t lost since.”
Cub head coach Jeremy Weilert said it was going 0-2 in their home tournament and “just not playing well in those two games” that set the Cubs on a path leading to this weekend’s Kansas Class 2-1A State Baseball Tournament.
Humboldt High has been playing competitive baseball for 11 years now. When the Cubs take the field Friday against Sedan High’s Blue Devils, it will be Humboldt’s first state tournament game.
The Cubs are 15-4 and seeded sixth. Sedan (17-2) are seeded No. 3. The teams play at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Soden’s Grove Baseball Field in Emporia.
“We’ve talked about being focused on Sedan. We have to win Friday to get to Saturday. We know what might be waiting for us Saturday but that doesn’t mean anything unless we beat Sedan,” Weilert said. He is in his sixth season as Cub head coach.
What awaits the winner of the Humboldt-Sedan game is the winner of the Pittsburg-St. Mary’s-Colgan-Chase County game. Chase County defeated Humboldt in last year’s regional championship game.
But Pittsburg-Colgan is the five-time defending state champion at Class 2-1A. The Panthers have made the tournament 12 straight times and several of those came at the expense of the Cubs.
“Right now, we’re just concentrating on Sedan,” said senior Troy Davis, who plays left field. “After the weekend of letting it sink in that we’re going to the stat tournament, we’ve settled down and gotten back to work.”
Five of the six seniors on the 2009 HHS baseball squad talked to the Register during practice Tuesday. To a man, the seniors were proud of being on the first-ever state baseball tournament team from Humboldt High School.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Andrew Honas, the starting center fielder. “This team is hard working and enthusiastic. We know we have to be mentally prepared as well as physically prepared for the state tournament.
“Now we can relax and take care of business. It’s really exciting to be with this group of guys going to state,” said Thad Wells, who has been tapped as Friday’s starting pitcher for the Cubs.
“We’re one big family as a team. We pick each other up during a game. We’ll do what it takes to win. And we’ve had such good support from the parents and community throughout the year.”
Whitaker said the Cubs were a team of self-motivators that work well together. He said the team practiced Friday then “a lot of us went and hit on our own over the weekend.
“This means a great deal to me after playing on the team for four years. We had a chance our freshman year and it’s good to get that bad taste out of my mouth.”
Billy Schomaker is the Cubs’ second baseman. He said he was really proud to be on the first team to make it to state.
“This is a great way to finish our senior year. We beat some good team and realized we could have a shot at state and we’ve played hard throughout the season,” Schomaker said.
The seniors talked of preparing just for Sedan. Whitaker said he believed the teams matched up well and Wells added that Sedan and Humboldt played common opponents and the Cubs looked at those games.
“Intensity is important going into this first game,” Wells said. “One of the good things about this team is we have fun but when it’s time to work, we play hard.”
That’s not lost on the Cubs’ coach.
“These guys have an air of confidence without being cocky,” Weilert said. “They know what to do to get better and they’ve worked hard all season.
“We’re going with Thad as our starting pitcher in Friday’s game. He had been our No. 1 pitcher all season and has been pitching well of late.”
Weilert said as head coach of the first baseball team from HHS to go to a state tournament, “it really didn’t sink in until I got back here in Humboldt. People came up to congratulate me and the team. That’s big for us. It really makes it special that both the boys and girls are in the state tournament this year.”
Other players on the HHS roster are senior Micah Poovey, juniors Jacob Manbeck, Chris Coronado, Elijah Friederich, Kyle Warren, Christian Hicks, sophomores Seth Nickel, Derrik McCall, Chris Headley and freshman Michael Zimmerman. Tim Endicott is the assistant coach.