Dodgers win CIC North crown

Blake Utley’s first year as head coach of the Fort Dodge baseball program will include an outright CIC Northern Division title.

The No. 6 (Class 4A) Dodgers (23-14 overall, 8-4 in the conference) secured the league championship by sweeping Marshalltown in a makeup twinbill Saturday afternoon at Ed McNeil Field.

After escaping with a 7-6, eight-inning comeback victory in the opener, FDSH posted a resounding 12-4 triumph in the nightcap.

The defending state runner-up Dodgers, who have now won 20 straight meetings against the Bobcats since a 2008 substate final setback, previously claimed CIML Iowa Conference crowns in 2009 and ’12.

“Our guys were ready to go (yesterday), and we treated this (doubleheader) like a substate tournament type game,” Utley said. “When we play with high energy, we’re a pretty tough team to beat. It was really good to see our guys respond the way they did..”

Sophomore leadoff batter Austin Halligan’s two-run walk-off single plated the decisive score for the Dodgers in Game 1, as the squad snapped a five-game losing streak. Up in the count 2-0, Halligan hit a blooper into short left-center field, bringing home junior Andrew Stover and freshman Kole Kampen.

“Austin came through for us with a big hit,” said Utley. “We brought home a much higher percentage of our baserunners than we did Thursday (Fort Dodge stranded a total of 11 baserunners Saturday compared to 24 in a pair of losses to second-ranked West Des Moines Valley in their previous outing).”

Stover finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored for the home team, while Austin Halligan and junior JC Hatcher contributed two hits and two RBI a piece. FDSH actually built a 5-2 lead entering the top of the seventh, before the Bobcats rallied with four unanswered scores of their own to briefly jump in front.

Grant Thimesch, Mason McCarville and Derek Mann each went 2-for-4 for the Bobcats (15-22, 6-6), who have now dropped six straight overall. Mann added two runs and a RBI.

Following an early deficit in the finale, the Dodgers answered right back by batting around and erupting for six runs on four hits in the bottom of the first. Fort Dodge also benefited from three Marshalltown defensive miscues.

“We were able to carry the momentum over into Game 2,” Utley said. “The three things we always preach are pitching, defense and timely hitting. We weren’t perfect in those areas, but we still got the job done.”

Junior Cory Alexander and senior Tommy Halligan both delivered three hits and three RBI for the Dodgers. Alexander added three runs scored, while Austin Halligan was 2-for-3 with a run.

Senior Tyler Vaughn (6-4) and Kampen (3-2) each went the distance on the mound for FDSH. Vaughn scattered 10 hits and six earned runs, one walk and two strikeouts; Kampen yielded six hits and four earned runs, while walking four and fanning three.

“Our goal was to have two complete games from Tyler and Kole,” said Utley. “I thought about making a pitching change a couple of times, but (Vaughn and Kampen) hung in there and battled until the end.”

Ryan Mitchell and Dylan Diveney recorded two hits apiece for the visitors. Diveney went deep and knocked in two.

Ames (20-14, 7-5) actually crept past Marshalltown to place second in the CIC North. The Little Cyclones swept a doubleheader against Mason City on Saturday.

Next action for the Dodgers is Monday when they host Urbandale (18-17) for their regular-season finale. First pitch for Senior/White Out Night is set for 3:30 p.m.