Blake Utley saw enough good things out of his eighth-ranked (Class 4A) Fort Dodge baseball team to Monday to chalk a split vs. Marshalltown up to a success.
The Dodgers dropped the opener, 5-4, but rebounded with an 8-5 victory in the nightcap. The doubleheader opened CIC North play for both teams at Ed McNeil Field.
Mistakes in the field and on the bases kept Fort Dodge (10-2 overall, 1-1 in league) from securing a sweep and remaining unbeaten against the Bobcats (5-3, 1-1) since 2008, but Utley took the blame for those.
“We do all of these things in practice, but maybe we don’t do them enough,” said the second-year head coach. “As coaches, we have to have the kids ready to handle all sorts of situations out there. We have the players that can make those plays, but as coaches, we obviously are not getting them prepared enough.
“We’ll come back and work on everything, and I can guarantee we will be a better team when we play (Marshalltown) again later this year.”
By taking the first, the Bobcats snapped a 20-game losing streak to the Dodgers, which dated back to a 2008 substate victory.
Austin Halligan led the way at the plate, going 4-for-7 with a triple and two doubles on the day. He scored four runs and drove in another. Cory Alexander collected three hits, including two in the opener, as did Andrew Stover and Cainen Hiracheta.
“I thought from top-to-bottom, our entire lineup produced,” Utley said. “This lineup is one we feel can really score runs and that is why we put it out there (Monday). Austin is just a great leadoff hitter and you know opposing teams are always concerned when he comes up to the plate because he can hit the ball everywhere on the field.
“Cory had a strong day with the bat, as did Cainen and Andrew.”
Stover (0-1) took the loss, allowing four earned runs and striking out three. Drew Hansen (2-1) tossed six innings of three-hit ball in the nightcap, striking out four and allowing just two earned runs.
“I was happy with the way both Andrew and Drew battled on the mound,” Utley said. “We had some mistakes on defense, but they didn’t get down. Instead, they came back and worked hard to throw strikes.”
After seeing Marshalltown come back in the second with a run to tie it at 4-all, the Dodgers responded with four runs. Cook had a two-RBI double that he kept fair by mere inches, while J.C. Hatcher executed a perfect squeeze bunt that scored a run.
“For all the things we did wrong, we turned a double play (in the seventh inning of Game 2) and we had two perfect suicide bunts,” Utley said. “We’re still a work in progress, but I’m happy with where we are at the moment.”
Fort Dodge returns to action today at Urbandale. The Dodgers play their next nine games on the road before returning home on June 24 to face Sioux City North.