Valley returns the favor
By JOSH MEYER
This time around, the No. 6 (Class 4A) Fort Dodge baseball team struggled to contain second-ranked West Des Moines Valley.
After sweeping the earlier meeting against the Tigers, the defending state runner-up Dodgers (21-14 overall) fell short in both ends of a CIC crossover doubleheader at Ed McNeil Field by scores of 14-3 and 6-4 here Thursday.
“Even though we lost both games, I was pleased with the energy we brought to the table,” FDSH head coach Blake Utley said. “We played with an edge that we lacked on Monday night (in a pair of conference setbacks at Ames), which was encouraging to see.
“We can definitely use this type of effort as a springboard for what’s to come.”
Austin Halligan, Tyler Vaughn and Kole Kampen collected two hits a piece in the opener for the Dodgers, who plated single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings. Halligan, Cory Alexander and Kampen each drove in a run, while Vaughn, Parker Van Zyl and Keegan Gormally all crossed the plate once.
FDSH stranded 14 baserunners in the game, including nine in scoring position. The Dodgers actually left the bags full in both the fourth and sixth.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit lately to get that clutch hit,” said Utley. “I thought in the second game, though, we did a better job of coming through with guys on base.”
University of Iowa recruit Tanner Hinkle, a leadoff batter, went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a double, four RBI and four runs scored for the Tigers (25-8), who jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in Game 1. Ben Miller, a University of Nebraska signee, and Ian Fitzsimmons each recorded two hits and a run. Miller knocked in three, while Fitzsimmons added one RBI.
Defensively, right fielder Gormally started a 9-2 double play to end the first inning, gunning down a Valley baserunner at the dish with a perfect throw to catcher Devon Harms.
In the nightcap, the Dodgers watched a 4-2 advantage slip away late, as the Tigers rallied for four unanswered runs over the last two frames. Fitzsimmons tied the contest with two-run shot to left in the sixth.
Connor Sorge later plated the go-ahead score with a two-out single in the seventh.
JC Hatcher and Van Zyl both managed a pair of hits for Fort Dodge, which has now dropped five straight games. Alexander came home twice, and Hatcher, Van Zyl and Kampen all produced a RBI.
“I was happy with how we battled in Game 2,” said Utley. “Give credit to Valley, because they can really swing the bats and don’t get cheated on any swings (the Tigers entered Thursday with a .318 team average).”
Hinkle and Miller each finished 3-for-4 for the visitors, who halted a mini three-game slide. Miller drove in three, and Hinkle scored twice.
FDSH third baseman Tommy Halligan also made a sparkling catch in the seventh, reaching over the fence to grab a pop-up in foul territory.
Hatcher (4-3) and Gormally (5-3) were the losing pitchers for the Dodgers, who were outhit in the twinbill 27-17.
“It may not be entirely visible from the stands, but I can tell we’re starting to come together,” Utley said. “We’re going to take this sweep personally for about 12 hours and then get ready for a big matchup with Marshalltown for the conference title on Saturday.”
With a CIC Northern Division championship on the line, the Dodgers welcome the Bobcats (15-19) on Saturday afternoon. First pitch for the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. Fort Dodge will then wrap up its regular-season Monday, hosting Urbandale for White Out Night.