Lions earn NCC title

(Above) Clear Lake’s Nathan Tofte took the loss on the mound against Humboldt.  The Wildcats topped the Lions, 9-4.    Tofte also pitched against C-G-D leading the Lions to victory in that contest.  -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy

It was a big week for the Clear Lake Lions, as they earned an outright North Central Conference Championship.  It is the second NCC title for the Lions since 2007 under the leadership of Coach Seth Thompson. Clear Lake also won the title in 2013, ending an NCC drought that had existed since 1965.

CL 11, Algona 1

The Lions’ quest to shut the door on a North Central Conference championship began on Friday, June 29.  The Lions hosted Algona and romped to an easy 11-1 victory.

“This was a great win against an Algona team that probably is the best offensive team in our conference,” said Clear Lake Coach Seth Thompson.

Jackson Hamlin was credited with the victory.  He went five innings, allowing one run on six hits and striking out three.

“Jackson wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, but still battled and found a way to keep a great offense to only one run on the night,” added the coach.

Clear Lake jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and added three more in the fourth and fifth to end the game on the 10-run rule.  They left six runners on base in the game.

The Lions scattered six hits in the game, with Zach Lester and Ben Finn each collecting two hits.  Lester provided the pre-holiday fireworks, as he socked a home run in the fourth inning.  Lester finished with three RBIs, while Finn had one.  Nathan Tofte had a hit, good for two RBIs.

“It was awesome to see Zach finally get one over the fence for a home run after getting so close so many times before.  He has been locked in offensively for a few weeks now and is turning into a really hard kid to get out and a great engine for our offense,” said Thompson.

The Lions were also good defensively and played an error-free game.

CL 13, C-G-D 1

The team picked up right where it left off when they traveled to Clarion Monday, July 2, to face the Cowboys.  The Lions pounded out 14 hits on their way to another five-inning win, 13-1.

“It was great to see the kids come out and put their foot on the gas right away and never let off,” said Coach Seth Thompson.

The Lions fired up the offense in the first inning.  Two runs scored when Zach Lester homered for the second game in a row.  The frame ended with Clear Lake ahead, 5-0.

Three runs in each of the second and third innings stretched the margin to 11-0.

The Cowboys managed to push one run across the plate in the fourth inning, but that was overshadowed by two more Lion runs in the top of the fifth.  The Cowboys’ failure to get anything going in the bottom of the inning let the game end early.

Nathan Tofte led the Lions to victory on the hill.  He allowed one hit and zero runs over one and two-thirds innings, striking out four and walking none.  Andrew Formanek threw three and one-third innings in relief out of the bullpen.

The Lions talked 14 hits.  Chase Stuver, Tofte and Erik McHenry, had multiple hits, including doubles. Lester and Jackson Hamlin each had two hits.  Stuver led the way with three hits in four at-bats.

Stuver, Hamlin, Lester and Mac Adams were each credited with two RBIs in the win.

“Zach set the tone right away with his second home run in two games and I thought both Tofte and Formanek pitched very well,” said Coach Thompson. “Any road win in conference is huge and this ended up securing a tie for the conference title with Webster City losing at Humboldt.”

CL 4, IF-A 1

The Lions claimed the North Central Conference title outright with a 4-1 victory over Iowa Falls-Alden Tuesday, July 3.  Zach Lester pitched the win, allowing four hits and one run over seven innings.  He struck out seven.

“You work hard all preseason and all throughout the season to get to a spot like this, where you have a chance to win the conference title outright.   Zach wasn’t as sharp as he has been most of the season, but we found out how good of a pitcher he really is by how he battled through some tough spots and his defense got some big outs for him,” said Coach Thompson. “I can’t say how proud and impressed I am with this team to be able to earn a conference title with all of the things that they had to battle through the season, with some key pieces of our lineup missing for extended periods of time.  They just came to the field and found a way to win and that says a lot about the heart and fire these kids play with.”

With the win the Lions carved out a place of distinction among NCC teams.  They have finished either first or second in the league each of the past 10-years, according to Coach Thompson, who became head coach for the 2007-08 season.

Iowa Falls-Alden opened up the scoring in Tuesday’s game in the first inning and took a 1-0 lead.

The Lions pulled away for good with two runs in the fourth.  Mac Adams drew a walk, scoring one run, and Erik McHenry singled on a one-one count, scoring one run.

The Lions scattered eight hits in the game.  Jackson Hamlin, Chase Stuver and Lester all managed multiple hits for the Lions.  Hamlin led the team with three hits in four at-bats.

Humboldt 9, CL 4

With the North Central Conference crown already secured, Thursday’s game with Humboldt thankfully didn’t have the implications it might have.  Humboldt withstood a charge by the Lions and pulled away for a 9-4 victory with a five-run sixth inning.

 “This turned out to be a game that did not really matter in the conference race and with us finding out that we play Humboldt first round in just a little over a week in District play, it presented an awkward situation for how you line up your pitching,” said Coach Thompson.  “To their credit, they hit the ball well and got some key hits in some key spots and ended up with the win.”

Both teams scored runs in the second inning, with Clear

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