Dodgers open with Mason City

The Fort Dodge baseball team will begin the road back to state against a familiar foe here Friday.

The Dodgers will face Mason City at Rogers Park in a Class 4A, Substate 2 opener. First-pitch is set for 7 p.m.

Fort Dodge (25-14 overall) and the Mohawks (16-24) are also grouped in the same bracket with top-ranked and defending state champion Ankeny, Des Moines Hoover, Waukee and Ames.

JC Hatcher, Austin Halligan, Tommy Halligan and Cory Alexander are the leading hitters for the Dodgers, who have won four straight after a five-game losing skid.

“It is going to take us playing Dodger baseball to achieve our one goal: win,” FDSH first-year head coach Blake Utley said. “That means the 26 guys in our dugout and the five coaches all being on the exact same page.”

As a team, Fort Dodge is batting over .330 with 50 steals and an on-base over .400. They also average nearly seven runs per game.

The long-time rivals met four times this past year as CIC Northern opponents. League champion Fort Dodge picked up victories in three of the four games, outscoring the Mohawks 25-4.

Tyler Vaughn, who will play at Iowa Central next year, won two of those games, striking out a combined 21 batters and allowing just 11 hits. Hatcher won the other behind a five-hit, 11-strikeout performance.

“We’ll be starting one of our three leading pitchers,” Utley said, referring to Vaughn, Hatcher and senior Keegan Gormally but not wanting to tip his cap ahead of game time.

Stone Sturges will likely get the ball for Mason City after leading them to the lone win this year over the Dodgers. He recorded two strikeouts and scattered eight hits.

On the year, Sturges is 3-5 with 31 strikeouts and an earned run average of just under three. As a hitter, he is batting over .300 with 21 RBI and six doubles.

“I would expect them to start Stone, but they have a couple of other guys that they could throw,” Utley said. “(Sturges) is the one who beat us, so I would be surprised if he didn’t start.”

The Mohawks are hitting .261 as a team with 66 steals. Mason City’s pitching staff sports an ERA of 4.57, while opponents are batting .312 against them.

While they will not be playing at Ed McNeil Field, the short drive north to Rogers Park suits Utley just fine.

“The city of Fort Dodge supports baseball very well,” Utley said. “We definitely enjoy the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd, and we are excited to play at (Rogers Park).”