No. 10 Dodgers open with baseball win

Fort Dodge opened its 2014 baseball season just how head coach Blake Utley envisioned here Tuesday night – in the win column.

After being tested for much of the game, the 10th-ranked (Class 4A) Dodgers (1-0 overall) pulled away late for a 9-2 triumph over 2013 Class 2A state semifinalist Carroll Kuemper at Ed McNeil Field.

“For our first time out this year, I thought our focus was very good,” Utley said. “We always like to use Game 1 as a measuring stick to see where we’re at and what we still need to work on. We weren’t perfect by any means, but the good news is that our mistakes can be fixed.”

Senior JC Hatcher and junior Drew Hansen each collected two hits out of the No. 4 and 9 spots in the lineup, respectively, for the home team. Hatcher also drove in three, while sophomore Cainen Hiracheta blasted his first varsity longball – a two-run shot to deep left-center field. Hansen added two runs scored.

Leading 3-2 in the sixth inning, the Dodgers delivered the knockout blow by sending 11 batters to the plate in a six-run outburst. During that pivotal stretch, FDSH also took full advantage of three Knight defensive miscues.

“Kuemper’s pitching was very competitive and had us guessing a little bit,” said Utley. “We were probably too overly aggressive at first, but I thought we settled in much better offensively as the game went on.”

Hatcher (1-0) notched his 14th career victory on the mound, allowing only two hits and no earned runs over five innings. The Iowa Central recruit walked two and fanned six, throwing 51 of his 81 pitches for strikes.

Hatcher retired the side in order in three different frames. Andrew Stover, another senior and Iowa Central signee, struck out five in two hitless innings for the save.

“JC threw very well on the mound and gave us a chance to get a win, which is all you can ask for,” Utley said. “Stover has looked good all spring, too. I thought both guys did a nice job of mixing their pitches and keeping (the Knights) off balance.”

Hatcher helped his own cause with a two-run double in the third, while Stover and Cory Alexander each managed RBI singles. Junior Austin Halligan, Alexander, Stover, Hatcher, Jacob Reeck and Sam Cook all crossed the dish once.

As a team, the Dodgers registered nine hits and overcame three errors. FDSH stranded nine baserunners, including five in scoring position.

Adam Schleisman (double) and Aaron Schleisman (single) managed the lone hits for Kuemper (0-1), which received votes in the first 2A poll of the season.

The Knights plated their runs on a passed ball and a fielding blunder in the fifth inning. Defensively, Kuemper made seven errors and turned a pair of double plays.

Next action for the Dodgers is tonight when they welcome Des Moines North.