Fort Dodge foils MHS in bid for league title

FORT DODGE – The prospect of winning a conference championship was not enough to propel the Marshalltown baseball team past Fort Dodge for the first time since 2008, as the Class 4A No. 6-ranked Dodgers swept the Bobcats in Saturday’s Central Iowa Conference Northern Division doubleheader.

The pair of wins clinched the inaugural CIC North title for Fort Dodge (23-14, 8-4), which ended its own five-game losing streak with wins of 7-6 and 12-4.

Marshalltown’s losing skid reached six games – and 20 straight against Fort Dodge – despite another late comeback that this time forced extra innings.

The Bobcats (15-22, 6-6) trailed 5-2 before scoring three times in the top of the seventh inning of the opener, and they even went ahead when they scored once in the top of the eighth. But MHS couldn’t hold it, as Fort Dodge rallied for two runs with only one out in the bottom half.

“We had more than our share of chances in game one, and did a nice job coming back in the seventh and going ahead in the eight, but Fort Dodge made more plays when it mattered,” said Marshalltown coach Steve Hanson. “Hank (Colton Hanke) and Tyler (Moranville) did a pretty good job (pitching) and we got some good swings off their best pitcher but we couldn’t close the deal.”

A night after playing fourth-ranked Des Moines East to a two-run defeat, MHS rallied back from a three-run deficit in the top of the seventh. Derek Mann singled, Ryan Mitchell walked one out later and Grant Thimesch singled to load the bases.

Hunter Hillygus grounded out to third but drove in the first run, and Blake Judkins was hit by a Tyler Vaughn pitch to load the bases again. Mason McCarville followed with a two-run single to left, but Moranville couldn’t keep the hit parade rolling as he grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Moranville allowed only a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh, preserving the 5-all tie, and the Bobcats came back to score the go-ahead run in the eight.

Mann and Dylan Diveney had back-to-back one-out singles, and both moved up on Mitchell’s groundout. Thimesch’s grounder to short drove in Mann as the go-ahead run, but that’s where it ended for MHS.

Moranville got the first out in the bottom of the eighth but Andrew Stover followed with a double and Kole Kampen was hit by a pitch. Keegan Gormally worked a walk in a 10-pitch at-bat, and that brought Judkins on to pitch in relief with the top of Fort Dodge’s batting order coming up. Austin Halligan took advantage of a hitter’s count, blooping a single to left that drove in two runs.

Vaughn went all eight innings for the win for the Dodgers, which at the time clinched at least a share of the CIC North title. The game-two victory made it an outright crown for Fort Dodge, while the pair of losses dropped MHS behind Ames (7-5) in the final division standings.

Hanke went four innings as Marshalltown’s starting pitcher, allowing five runs – two earned – on six hits and three walks. He struck out one. Moranville (2-2) got the loss, giving up two runs on four hits over 3 1/3 frames.

Stover was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run to lead the Dodgers offensively. McCarville and Mann went 2-for-4 to pace the Bobcats. Michael Schrempf and McCarville both doubled.

Fort Dodge jumped on Judkins for six runs in the first inning of the nightcap, getting four hits, a walk, a hit batsman and a pair of Bobcat errors.

A pair of run-scoring groundouts in the fourth got Marshalltown back to within 6-4, but the Dodgers racked up for more in the home half to pull away. Two insurance runs in the fifth sealed the victory for Fort Dodge.

Kampen went the distance for the win, allowing four runs on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Judkins (4-5) surrendered 12 runs – nine earned – on 11 hits with four walks, two hit batters and five strikeouts.

Cory Alexander and Tommy Halligan both went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to highlight for Fort Dodge.

Mitchell and Diveney were 2-for-3 to lead Marshalltown, including a double and two stolen bases for Mitchell and the first home run of the season for Diveney. Austin Sowers and Hillygus rounded out the Bobcats’ six-hit game.

“We got an early lead but then like so many times this year, we were unable to throw a strike or field a ball and we gave them six runs,” said Hanson. “Just when we closed it back down to 6-4 we were unable to get a stop.

“Our guys know that one bad inning can shut down the season, so we will continue to fine-tune our performance early next week in preparation of going to Cedar Falls Friday night.”

Before heading off for next week’s postseason opener, the Bobcats close the regular season with road doubleheaders Monday at No. 8 Johnston and Tuesday at Des Moines Roosevelt.