Dodgers face Waukee

CARROLL – Plenty of unfinished business still remains for the Fort Dodge baseball team.

Winners of five straight games, the Dodgers (26-14 overall) will battle Waukee (27-13) in a Class 4A, Substate 2 semifinal tonight at 7 p.m. inside Carroll Stadium.

Back on June 19 of this season, CIC Northern Division champion FDSH dropped both ends of a road doubleheader against the Warriors by scores of 6-2 and 6-3.

This time around, the defending state runner-up Dodgers are ready to exact revenge.

“For whatever reason, I just felt like we didn’t play our best baseball that day and left some runs out (on the field),” Fort Dodge head coach Blake Utley said. “We stranded so many guys on base, which was the story of our season there for awhile. Our boys are starting to play their best baseball now, though, and want another shot at (the Warriors).”

In the substate quarterfinal, FDSH managed a 4-2 triumph over conference rival Mason City Friday evening at Rogers Sports Complex.

Senior ace Tyler Vaughn, an Iowa Central recruit, went the distance in his third complete game victory of the year over the Mohawks. Vaughn scattered nine hits and one earned run, while walking one and fanning seven.

Keegan Gormally, another senior, went 2-for-3 offensively with a RBI. Sophomore Austin Halligan also singled and scored twice, while older brother Tommy Halligan singled and drove in a pair.

Tommy Halligan (.396 BA, 44 H, 26 RBI, 21 R), Gormally (.390, 39 H, 30 R, 17 RBI) and Austin Halligan (.389, 49 H, 41 R, 21 RBI) are the top threats in the Dodger lineup. As a team, FDSH is batting .335 with 50 stolen bases and a .423 on-base percentage. Pitching-wise, Fort Dodge owns a 3.66 ERA, while holding opponents to a .273 batting average.

“You always take runs whenever you can get them, but if you score early, it puts pressure on the defense and will provide a little more confidence,” said Utley.

Utley never tipped his hand once again on who will receive the starting pitching assignment. Either JC Hatcher (5-3; 47 1/3 IP, 54 H, 41 K, 3.85 ERA) or Gormally (6-3; 55 IP, 69 H, 27 K, 3.18 ERA) appear to be the most likely candidates.

Waukee, which has prevailed in six of its past seven outings, downed Ames in its tournament opener by a 6-1 count. Luke Fegen (.400, 54 H, 33 R), Jordan Niehaus (.381, 45 H, 26 RBI) and Mick Price (.357, 35 H, 24 RBI) are the catalysts for the Warriors, who are hitting .303 on the season with 41 steals.

“(The Warriors) have turned things around ever since we played them,” Utley said. “They’ve been swinging the bats really well of late.”

Austin Battaglia (5-3; 43 IP, 43 H, 40 K, 2.28 ERA) or Addison Meyers (7-0; 46 IP, 52 H, 42 K, 2.59 ERA) could potentially toe the rubber for Waukee. Meyers beat the Dodgers in the nightcap of their previous meeting, scattering nine hits, two earned runs, one walk and two strikeouts over seven innings.

“We’re hoping our fans will travel down to Carroll and watch us play in a beautiful facility,” said Utley. “Our guys are very excited and have a lot to prove.”

Tonight’s Fort Dodge/Waukee winner advances to face top-ranked and reigning state champion Ankeny (33-7) in a 4A, Substate 2 final Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Ankeny.

State action in 4A begins July 31 at Principal Park in Des Moines.