Dowling ends Dodgers’ run

WEST DES MOINES – The Fort Dodge baseball team made the most of every opportunity on their path to a Class 4A substate final at West Des Moines Dowling.

On Wednesday night, the Dodgers’ well ran dry.

The sixth-ranked and top-seeded Maroons kept the visitors at bay long enough to find their own comfort zone, then pulled away for a 10-0 victory at George Cordaro Field to clinch the program’s fifth state tournament berth in the last six years.

It wasn’t as easy as the final score indicated. Fort Dodge (24-19 overall) had Dowling (29-10) on its heels early on, putting two runners on base in both the first and third innings.

Maroon junior Ben Olson escaped both jams unscathed, though, and his teammates gave him plenty of breathing room with a six-run explosion in the bottom of the third.

”We definitely had our chances to put the pressure on and force them to come from behind,” FDSH head coach Blake Utley said. ”We needed to make the most of those situations and finish the rally, which is what we did so well (in comeback substate wins at Sioux City North and Ames).

”You have to give them credit, though. Their pitcher worked his way through the trouble spots and came up with some big strikeouts. We score in the first or the third and the game takes on a completely different look. It changes everything. But that’s baseball for you.”

After junior Austin Halligan and senior JC Hatcher reached base in the top of the opening frame, Olson – a 6-foot-6 left-hander – wiggled out of trouble by sitting down senior Andrew Stover and sophomore Sam Kolacia. The Dodgers again looked poised to strike first in the third inning, when No. 9 batter Drew Hansen singled and Halligan doubled, putting runners on second and third with no one out.

Senior Cory Alexander lined out to second base and Hatcher walked to load the bases. Again, Olson retired Stover and Kolacia to end the threat.

Dowling rode that momentum into the bottom of the frame. After being retired in order by Hatcher through the first two innings, seven straight Maroons reached base as a scoreless contest quickly morphed into a 6-0 advantage for the home squad.

Leadoff batter Luke DeVenney, a senior, had the big blow with a three-run double. Later, No. 3 hitter Jake Lewton belted a two-run home run.

Hatcher (7-3), who had pitched FDSH past Sioux City North last Friday before earning the save on Monday in Ames, didn’t work past that third inning. He had shut the Maroons out during the regular season.

”JC’s tank might’ve been on empty a little. You could probably say that for our whole team after two huge come-from-behind road wins to get to this point in the last six days,” Utley said. ”With that being said, you can’t just excuse it away.

”We ran into a buzzsaw. Dowling earned that No. 1 seed (in the substate, and a semifinal round bye) for a reason, and they took advantage. Again, that’s how baseball works.”

worked his way through the trouble spots and came up with some big strikeouts. We score in the first or the third and the game takes on a completely different look. It changes everything. But that’s baseball for you.”

After junior Austin Halligan and senior JC Hatcher reached base in the top of the opening frame, Olson – a 6-foot-6 left-hander – wiggled out of trouble by sitting down senior Andrew Stover and sophomore Sam Kolacia. The Dodgers again looked poised to strike first in the third inning, when No. 9 batter Drew Hansen singled and Halligan doubled, putting runners on second and third with no one out.

Senior Cory Alexander lined out to second base and Hatcher walked to load the bases. Again, Olson retired Stover and Kolacia to end the threat.

Dowling rode that momentum into the bottom of the frame. After being retired in order by Hatcher through the first two innings, seven straight Maroons reached base as a scoreless contest quickly morphed into a 6-0 advantage for the home squad.

Leadoff batter Luke DeVenney delivered the big blow with a three-run double. Later, No. 3 hitter Jake Lewton belted a two-run home run.

Hatcher (7-3), who pitched FDSH past Sioux City North last Friday before earning the save on Monday in Ames, didn’t work past that third inning. He had shut the Maroons out here during the regular season.

”JC’s tank might’ve been on empty a little. You could probably say that for our whole team after two huge come-from-behind road wins to get to this point in the last six days,” Utley said. ”With that being said, you can’t just excuse it away.

”We ran into a buzzsaw. Dowling earned that No. 1 seed (in the substate, and a semifinal round bye) for a reason, and they took advantage. Again, that’s how baseball works.”

DeVenney and Lewton, both seniors, were a combined 4-for-6 with seven RBI. Dowling’s No. 7-9 hitters – Brendan Dougherty, Nick Stein and Zevon Benoit – all reached base in each of their respective plate appearances as well. They were 5-for-5 with five runs scored combined.

Olson (4-1) struck out nine in his three-hit, five-inning shutout. The Maroons plated three runs in the fourth, then ended the affair via the mercy rule with a run in the fifth.

Utley bid an emotional farewell to his players – including seven Dodger seniors – afterward. Hatcher, Stover, Alexander, Brandon Archibald, Tristan Shaw, Brandon Dencklau and Gunnar Conrad suited up for their final time last night in front of a capacity crowd.

”I want to take the time to thank our players – especially their seniors, who competed their guts out for us,” Utley said. ”They laid it all on the line and have meant an awful lot to our program. From day one, they’ve done everything we asked of them. It’s extremely difficult to watch them walk off the field in a Dodger uniform for the last time.

”We wanted to play our best ball in late-July. I think we were doing that. We had two emotional postseason wins and had a chance to get back to state, which is the position you want to be in. These kids gave it their all.”