Fort Dodge sweeps Urbandale in finale

The Fort Dodge baseball team is riding a wave of momentum into tournament play.

Pushing their winning streak to four straight games, the Dodgers (25-14 overall) wrapped up their regular season with a doubleheader sweep of Urbandale (19-19) on Senior/White Out Night Monday at Ed McNeil Field.

Scores were 10-3 and 5-4 in favor of FDSH, which will face Mason City in a Class 4A, Substate 2 quarterfinal Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Rogers Sports Complex. The CIC Northern Division champion Dodgers prevailed in three of their four league meetings against the Mohawks (15-24) during the regular season.

“That (sweep) was big for our seven seniors, who have meant a lot to our program and me personally, too,” Dodger first-year head coach Blake Utley said. “We were hoping they could go out and be successful, which is exactly what happened.

“It was just a great night for Dodger baseball. Our boys were ready to go.”

Despite going hitless through the first 3 1/3 innings of the opener, Fort Dodge still managed to pull away behind an eight-spot in the fifth. All 10 Dodgers runs were actually of the unearned variety, as the J-Hawks committed four pivotal defensive miscues in the game.

“We knew we’d be facing their 1-2 (starting pitchers), but we expected it right off the bat,” said Utley. “The first pitcher (southpaw Parker Magneson) did a nice job of keeping us off-balance, but we were finally able to break it open against their second guy (right-hander Ezra Skoog), who has pitched the most innings for them this year.”

Austin Halligan, a sophomore leadoff batter, reached base all four times in Game 1 for FDSH. Halligan doubled, walked twice, was hit by a pitch, drove in two and scored once. He ended the game with a highlight-reel, wall-crashing catch in deep center field, robbing the J-Hawks of two more potential runs.

Devon Harms contributed a two-bagger and pair of RBI of his own, while JC Hatcher and Tyler Vaughn each came home twice. Behind the dish, Harms also picked off a baserunner with a perfect snap throw to first.

Keegan Gormally (6-3) went the distance on the mound, scattering eight hits, three earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts.

In the nightcap, the defending state runner-up Dodgers rallied from a brief 2-1 deficit by plating four scores in the fifth. Tommy Halligan recorded a go-ahead two-run single, and Parker Van Zyl and Vaughn delivered clutch two-out, back-to-back RBI doubles.

Cory Alexander and Van Zyl each notched two hits out of the No. 2 and 6 spots in the order, respectively, while Alexander crossed the plate twice.

Hatcher (5-3) posted the win in relief of Eric Puls, yielding four hits, two earned runs, three walks and three strikeouts over 2 2/3 frames. With runners on first and third and two outs in the seventh, Hatcher escaped a jam by inducing a harmless fly ball to left.

Defensively, Fort Dodge turned a pair of twin killings behind Puls and Hatcher.

“Eric changed speeds and pitched extremely well,” Utley said. “JC came in then and showed the type of competitor he is. He was not going to lose that game.”

Making their final appearances at Ed McNeil Field were Tommy Halligan, Vaughn, Gormally, Harms, Van Zyl, Puls and Nate Sunken, who were all recognized between games. Each of the seven seniors started the second contest.

As part of White Out Night, the Dodgers sported special jerseys in the finale, which were silently auctioned off during the first five innings.

“I’ve really been fortunate to have a great group of kids to work with,” said Utley. “We have three days (of practice) now to make sure we’re ready for Mason City. It’s going to be a lot of fun on Friday night. Our boys are excited for baseball and love the game.”