Kearney beats Webb City 5-0 in Class 5 state quarterfinal

May 25—KEARNEY, Mo. — Elijah Helberg pitched in the Class 5 state quarterfinal game at Webb City last year for Kearney as a sophomore.

Helberg and the Bulldogs were defeated 3-2 in that 2023 game.

On Saturday, Helberg took the mound against the Cardinals at Kearney High School and got revenge as the junior pitched a complete-game shutout in the Bulldogs' 5-0 win.

"Definitely. I've been thinking about this moment ever since we lost last year," Helberg admitted. "It feels good to go out and pitch one of my best games I've ever thrown."

The right-hander pitched all seven innings and didn't surrender a run on four hits and only two walks. He struck out five Cardinals.

"I think the key today was just to get ahead early and throw a lot of strikes," Helberg added.

Webb City picked off two baserunners and turned three different double plays — one traditionally on a ground ball, another on a popped up bunt and then a line-out to first base that Shaun Hunt caught and then stepped on his bag. That helped the Cardinals stay close despite offensive struggles.

"Both (pitchers) are cruising through five innings and then they get a ball that bounces their way. That kid had tremendous speed and beats it out at first base. Good team's take advantage of extra opportunities and they made us pay for the few that they got," Webb City head coach Andrew Doennig said.

It took some time to get to Webb City pitcher Luke Beverlin, but the Bulldogs did that in the sixth inning with three hits and a pair of sacrifice flies after that booted ball that Doennig mentioned bouncing Kearney's way.

"We had a few baserunning mistakes that were uncharacteristic of us," Kearney head coach Shane Remley said. "But I knew eventually someone was going to come through."

Webb City's season ends with a 26-8 record, tying a school mark for most wins in a season.

The Cardinals just couldn't string enough hits together or get multiple baserunners in an inning outside of the final inning.

Remley talked about his junior pitcher after the performance.

"He's thrown a lot of our big games and he just battles," Remley said. "He's not going to light up the radar gun. But he's going to pitch. He's going to battle his ass off."

"We never could get a lot of anything squared up. We hit a few balls hard. (Helberg) throws his slider well in any count. He did a good job with his slider," Doennig said. "That's just baseball. Sometimes you hit them right at everybody and sometimes you dump them in behind everybody."

Some of that happened Saturday as two lined shots into the outfield from Cohen Epler and Mason Williams were hit to where outfielders could get to them. Helberg admitted there's luck involved with winning sometimes.

"I think I got lucky a few times on where those hard-hit balls were. But, we have a phenomenal outfield. We have one of the best in the state. They always have my back out there," Helberg said. "They're always making great plays saving me."

In the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs had two bloop singles that were softly hit over the infielders heads and in front of the outfielders that began their three-run rally after their first batter reached on an error.

"Tip your hat to those guys. They've had a good year and were good again in this game," Doennig said.

Webb City's junior Beverlin pitched 5 1/3 innings allowing three runs — one earned — on seven hits and one walk. He struck out four.

The Cardinals committed four errors overall and three while Beverlin was on the mound.

The first two were made up for — Beverlin got a ground ball in the first inning that his infield turned into a double play to wipe the error away.

In the third, second baseman Sam Weller booted a ground ball in the hole between first and second on the outfield grass. But he scooped the ball up quickly and fired it home to catch the runner trying to score from second base.

The one in the sixth ended up coming back to bite.

After a ground ball took a high hop on Hunter Shull, the speed of Kearney's Chase Porter was too much for Shull to get the ball to first in time for an out.

The Bulldogs went on to collect two bloop singles to load the bases. Then it was a sacrifice fly, another single and another sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Landon Fletcher had to come in and finish the inning.

"That's been our offense all year long stringing hits together," Remley said. "Their pitcher threw great."

Fletcher went on to pitch the seventh and he allowed a single but then picked the runner off. Then another booted ball allowed a baserunner.

Kearney's Porter stepped in and hit a ball deep to left field and Christian Brock got turned around as he tracked it back toward the fence. He eventually slipped and the ball was just beyond the reach of his glove as it fell to the grass in front of him and the Bulldogs scored a run off Porter's triple.

Manny Linthacum singled Porter in to make it 5-0.

Fletcher finished the game and pitched 1 2/3 innings allowing two runs on two hits and only one earned.

Weller finished with a single and a walk for Webb City. Williams had a single. Vonder Haar doubled to start the seventh. Hunt singled in the seventh. Christian Brock also walked.


Kearney advances to the Class 5 Final Four in Ozark. This is the Bulldogs' first appearance since 1998 — when head coach Remley was the catcher of the team.

Kearney won a state title in '98. Remley has the chance to win one as a coach in his 14th season at the helm of the program.

"I'm just excited for these kids and myself," Remley said. "It's just exciting to get back. Something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Three of Kearney's seniors on this team have been playing since they were freshmen.

"It's just cool. ... They've been through a lot with me. Great kids. Great leadership," Remley said. "This is a special group."

Remley added that there was a lot of work put in getting the non-turf field ready to be able to host the game on the Bulldogs' home field and that was important to them.


Senior Drew Vonder Haar talked about the matchup two years in a row now with Kearney as well as his time at Webb City and what it meant to him to be a Cardinal.

"They're a really good team. It's fun playing games like this against good teams. It definitely makes you better. We got them last year, they came out on top this year," he said.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world. Great guys, great coaches, love playing for them every day. Love our coaches and everybody around us."