Out of reach

Baseball teams walk a thin line when it comes to confidence.

Ninth-ranked (Class 4A) Fort Dodge is on the wrong side of that mental tightrope right now.

The Dodgers (13-8 overall) held a slim advantage over Sioux City North for five-plus innings on Tuesday, but the Stars exploded for 11 runs in the final two frames of an 11-1 victory at Ed McNeil Field.

North (16-5 overall) trailed 1-0 for most of the contest, but the visitors found a rhythm when it mattered most and extended its overall win streak to nine games in the process. Fort Dodge, meanwhile, has now dropped five straight.

”When you’re struggling and forcing things, your margin for error isn’t much – especially against opponents of the caliber we’ve faced recently,” FDSH head coach Blake Utley said. ”We got off to a good start and were sound with our pitching and defense, but unfortunately, we couldn’t create enough space and North caught us.

”We didn’t get the timely hits we needed, and they did. Sometimes, this can be a very simple game. The thing that concerns me at this point is that once we got down, we started to hang our heads and things snowballed on us. To break out of a slump, you have to show some perseverance. We have to find that (level of intensity) again.”

The Dodgers scored for the first time in five contests with a run in the first, but that was all they were able to manage against Stars’ southpaw ace Robert Neustrom (5-0). Fort Dodge senior Cory Alexander got the better of North for the first five frames before running into trouble in the sixth against the heart of the visitor’s talented lineup.

The tide turned for good on a bases-clearing, three-run triple to left-center by Roy Baker. Dodger junior Austin Halligan went all-out to try and make the catch, crashing into the wall at full speed. Halligan was down for several minutes with rib and head injuries, but stayed in the game.

”It was a tremendous effort by Austin; he would literally run through a wall to make a critical out,” Utley said. ”That kind of took the wind out of our sails, though. Instead of picking ourselves up after that and trying to rally only down 3-1, we lost our edge and focus.”

No. 9 hitter Noah Weeter, a freshman, had an RBI double and a two-run homer in the last two innings for North. The Stars had all 11 runs and nine of their 14 hits in the final two frames.

Fort Dodge had been blanked consecutively by third-ranked West Des Moines Dowling, West Des Moines Valley and Ames twice before last night. The Dodgers next welcome No. 2 Waukee to McNeil Field on Wednesday.

”This is obviously a difficult stretch in our schedule. but we choose to do that because it prepares us for the postseason,” Utley said. ”Right now, we need to find the best lineup and our best group of players who want to fight our way out of this.

”It’s up to all of us – coaches and players both – to do whatever it takes to get back on track.”

Alexander surrendered only one earned run in the no decision. He also drove in Halligan for the only Dodger run.

Sophomore catcher Cainen Hiracheta threw out three North runners on the basepaths and had the lone extra-base hit for FDSH.

The Dodgers are Warriors square off in a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. here today.