Cubs find first state trip a good one

Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Humboldt High’s Thad Wells catches a line drive to shortstop as teammate and Cub pitcher Andrew Whitaker (17) pumps his fist in approval during the Cubs’ 6-2 win over Salina Sacred Heart for third place in the 2009 Kansas Class 2-1A State Baseball Tournament Saturday in Emporia.

EMPORIA — Humboldt High’s baseball team continued to make history over the weekend.
In its first-ever trip to a state baseball tournament, Humboldt made the most of it. The Cubs (17-5) went 2-1 claiming the third-place trophy at the 2009 Kansas Class 2-1A State Baseball Tournament at Soden’s Grove Field in Emporia.
They started the state tournament trek with a convincing 14-4 win over Sedan in the opening round Friday night. It took the Cubs just five innings to break through to the semifinal round.
An eight-run second inning powered the Cubs, who led 10-0 after two innings. Senior Thad Wells pitched a five-hitter, walked three batters and struck out six.
“We felt confident going into the first game and I just gave it all I had on the mound,” Wells said. When he’s not pitching, Wells plays shortstop for the Cubs.
Offensively, junior catcher Jacob Manbeck went 3-for-4 against Sedan, with a double and two singles and drove in two runs. Senior Andrew Honas and Wells each had two singles. Senior Troy Davis and sophomore Seth Nickell each had a base hit.
“This was a huge victory for us,” said Jeremy Weilert, Cub head coach. “We hit the ball well. Thad pitched another outstanding game. We put pressure on Sedan and made them make mistakes.”
On Saturday the Cubs knew they had a big task ahead of them as they faced Pittsburg-St. Mary’s-Colgan High’s Panthers in the semifinals. The Panthers were out to win — and they did — their sixth straight Class 2-1A state championship.
“We knew we’d probably get beat by Colgan. We went out to win that game but they’re very good,” Wells said after Humboldt lost 15-0 to the Panthers in three innings.
The Cubs started the game well with Davis reaching on a one-out error Andrew Whit-aker following with a single.
But Davis was picked off of second and Wells hit a pop-up to end the inning. Then the Cubs couldn’t get out of the bottom of the first inning.
Honas started on the mound for Humboldt but only got one out while surrendering six runs on four hits and three walks. Friederich came on in relief in the first inning.
Friederich worked 12⁄3 innings and allowed nine runs on five hits and three walks. Colgan hit three two-run home runs in the game and did what it had to do to reach the championship game.
The Panthers went on to defeat previously undefeated Moscow 10-1 in the title contest Saturday. Pittsburg-Colgan surrendered just two runs in three games, outscoring opponents 36-2.
Friederich, Whitaker and Nickell each had a single in the contest.
“We came back with everything we had for this game,” Wells said.
The game Wells was talking about was the third-place contest against the Salina Sacred Heart High Knights. It was a game the Cubs wanted to win and did win 6-2.
Whitaker was tapped as the Cub starter for the game. And he helped himself by going 3-for-4 with two singles and a triple.
“I was — we all were — picking up the ball pretty well in this game,” Whitaker said amid the Cub celebration following the trophy presentation Saturday.
“This was one the best games we played all year,” Weilert said of his team. “Whit did a great job on the mound and when he started to struggle in the fifth, Thad came with the bases loaded and no outs.”
Wells switched from shortstop to pitcher while Whitaker went to first base. Davis ran down a long fly ball in foul territory as the Knight base runners were held in place.
Wells struck out the next two batters.
Whitaker was the winning pitcher as he went four-plus innings allowing two runs on two hits and four walks. He struck out three.
Backed by good defense, Wells worked two more scoreless innings for the save. He gave one hit and struck out three including the final out of the game.
“Wow, it was an amazing feeling in the seventh inning,” Wells said. “We all worked hard all season and this is great. I felt good coming in to relive Whit and I wanted to do everything I could to help our team win.”
Friederich opened the door by reaching on an error to start the first inning. Davis singled, then got caught in a rundown between first and second. The Knights forgot about Friederich who went all the way in to home to score.
Whitaker tripled and Wells walked. Wells stole second and a throwing error by the catcher allowed Whitaker to score. Wells ended up at third base and scored when Manbeck beat the throw to first base.
With two out and Christian Hicks running for Manbeck, Honas doubled to center field. Coach Weilert waved Hicks home but he was tagged out at the plate. The Cubs led 3-0 and never looked back.
With two gone in the second, Friederich, Davis and Whitaker singled to push another run across. Manbeck parked a 3-2 pitch over the left field fence to lead off the third inning giving Humboldt a 4-0 lead.
Sacred Heart used a walk to Stephen Lyon, a stolen base and a two-out single by Jordan Jerkovich to score a run in the fourth.
Manbeck threw out Jerkovich trying to steal second base.
Sacred Heart appeared to be ready for a big rally in the fifth.
Kyle Wasinger walked and went to second base on a balk by Whitaker. Colby Wetter reached on a throwing error and a run scored. Two more walks loaded the bases, then Wells came in to stifle the Knights.
In the sixth, Honas and Derek McCall were hit by pitches and Chris Coronado moved the runners on a sacrifice. Friederich’s single to center field gave Humboldt an insurance run.
In the bottom the sixth, Manbeck made a sliding catch of a foul ball at the backstop. In the seventh, Nickell made a long run to get a foul ball in right field, Friederich caught a pop-up at shortstop before Wells struck out Scott Lyon to end the inning, the game and give third place to Humboldt.
“We were great defensively, committing only one error and we put the ball in play offensively,” Weilert said.
“We had a great send off Friday at home and have had great support from our fans all season. I’m proud of how hard our kids worked and they set a goal to make it to state. They achieved it with the work they did.”