Dodgers back in substate finals

CARROLL – It may not be the state championship game this time around, but Fort Dodge baseball coach Blake Utley said his team has been working toward a rematch with Ankeny since the postseason pairings came out.

They’ll get their shot Wednesday night.

Fort Dodge earned a rematch with Ankeny in a Class 4A substate final with a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Waukee here Monday night. The win avenged a pair of losses to the Warriors earlier in the year and gives the Dodgers another shot at the top-ranked Hawks, who beat them 10-0 in the 2012 state finals.

“These kids don’t care where it is – they just want another chance,” said Utley, who was an assistant coach in last year’s final before taking the helm from Matt Elsbecker. “The kids want to play them (Ankeny) with the season on the line.

“Ankeny is a undoubtedly great team, but we have the ingredients to get the job done.”

The Dodgers (27-14) will also get a chance to redeem themselves against the Hawks (33-7) for two regular-season losses – just as they did here last night.

The Dodgers bolted out to a 5-0 lead and rode the pitching of JC Hatcher and Keegan Gormally past the Warriors on Monday.

“Tournament time is a special time for our seniors and special to our program,” Utley said. “We want to use our season to make sure we are ready (for the tournament).

“We knew we left something down there (at Waukee). The kids remember those games.”

Hatcher (6-3) pitched into the sixth before giving way to Gormally, who allowed just two base runners in nearly two full innings of relief. Hatcher allowed all three runs, but wasn’t scored upon until the fifth and the Dodgers were already up 5-0 at the time.

Just one run was earned against the junior right-hander, who pitched FDSH?through the state semifinals a year ago.

“I told JC he had what it takes to beat Waukee,” said Utley. “That’s why he got the ball. He went out and competed.

“Gormally really stepped up for us as well. He is one of those seniors that this really means a lot. No matter the mood of our team on a given day, he’s been a steady leader.”

Fort Dodge jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second, scoring three unearned runs with two outs. After Tyler Vaughn reached on an error, Kole Kampen smashed an RBI triple to right and then he scored when Gormally reached on another error.

Sophomore Austin Halligan then stroked a triple of his own to right to make it 3-0.

“That lead gave us momentum,” said Utley. “There may have been some errors, but they were all balls we hit hard. They were quality at-bats.”

The Dodgers got single runs in the third and fourth to make it 5-0. In the third, Devon Harms, Parker Van Zyl and Vaughn stroked three straight singles, but the Dodgers left two runners on base. In the fourth, Gormally singled to start the frame and scored when Hatcher was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Again, the Dodgers couldn’t break it open, leaving the bases loaded with two straight strikeouts.

Waukee finally broke through against Hatcher in the fifth. The Warriors got a triple from Matt Hoeg with one out and he scored on an error. Kyle Kubiak made it 5-2 with an RBI single, but Hatcher got a long fly to right to end the frame.

The Warriors pulled within 5-3 in the sixth as pinch-hitter Levi Shriener singled home Andy Rushenberg. Gormally then came on and got a fielder’s choice and a fly to center to end the inning.

Waukee got a one-out single in the seventh, but Gormally got a strikeout and fly to center to close out the game.

Hatcher gave up five of the six hits while striking out six. Fort Dodge made just one error behind the two pitchers.

The Dodgers banged out nine hits, including triples from Austin Halligan, Hatcher and Kampen.

Ankeny advanced out of the first round of sub-state with a 7-0 win over Des Moines Hoover and received a bye to the final as the No. 1 seed. The Dodgers, seeded second, posted a 4-2 win over Mason City in the opening round.

Last night’s game was moved here since the Dodgers’ de facto home field for tournaments, Rogers Park, was hosting state softball. However, Fort Dodge still sported at least a 3-to-1 advantage in fans in the stands.

Wednesday’s substate final will start at 7 p.m. Utley wasn’t sure who would pitch, but he’ll make the decision before Wednesday.