AMES - Despite not being on top of their game here Friday, the Fort Dodge baseball team was still able to capture just its second CIML championship with a doubleheader split against Ames.
The third-ranked (Class 4A) Dodgers wrapped up their second CIML Iowa title in the past four years with a 4-3 victory in the opener against the last-place Little Cyclones. FDSH then dropped the nightcap by an 8-7 final in eight innings.
"Winning the conference is quite a feat," said FDSH head coach Matt Elsbecker of a squad that returned just one starter from the 2011 state semifinal lineup. "There's no doubt about it that everything this team has accomplished this season was earned.
"The biggest prize (qualifying for state), though, is still out there. We have to be able to understand that we're no longer chasing and are now the ones being chased. As we head into our second season, we have to learn to handle our success each and every time out."
In game one, Devon Harms delivered a go-ahead RBI single for the Dodgers in the top of the sixth. Fort Dodge's other three runs all came in the third.
Senior Luke Vandermaten (6-2) picked up the win in relief, scattering two hits, two walks and five strikeouts over five innings.
Fort Dodge 4, Ames 3
Fort Dodge 003 001 0-4 5 0
Ames 102 000 0-3 8 1
Nathan Matthes, Luke Vandermaten (3) and Devon Harms; Austin Nowers, Erik Dempsey (6) and Toran Shahidi. 2B-FD: Tommy Halligan. HR-A: Bo Brammer
Ames 8, Fort Dodge 7 (8 Inn.)
Fort Dodge 120 020 02-7 7 2
Ames 000 140 03-8 10 2
JC Hatcher, Tyler Vaughn (5), Will Gormally (8) and Harms; Alex Brammer, Brian Pierce (6) and Shahidi. HR-A: A. Brammer.
CIML IOWA CONFERENCE
Fort Dodge 17-3, 29-6
Valley 16-4, 27-9
Waukee 13-7, 25-9
Mason City 6-14, 12-24
Marshalltown 5-15, 16-20
Ames 3-17, 5-27
"I thought Luke really came in and did an excellent job pitching for us," Elsbecker said.
Joe Bappe and Sam Straub each finished 2-for-4 for the Little Cyclones (5-27, 3-17), while Bo Brammer homered.
Leading 7-5 entering the bottom of the eighth in the second contest, the Dodgers watched Ames snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by rallying for three scores.
"That (setback) shows me we have to do a better job of closing out games," said Elsbecker. "We seem to be wandering a little right now, and our pitchers just aren't locked in like they were earlier.
"You can definitely learn from losses just as much as you do from wins - if not more - and this got our attention."
Isaac Lehman went 2-for-3 for the Dodgers, who also let a 5-1 advantage in the fifth inning slip away. Taking the loss in relief was Will Gormally (4-3).
Bo Brammer, Bappe, Brian Pierce and Austin Nowers all contributed a pair of hits for the Little Cyclones, which were swept by FDSH in their previous matchup this season.
Fort Dodge also captured a CIML Iowa crown on the diamond in 2009 - its first since joining the league 16 years prior - with a 15-5 record. The Dodgers' league mark of 17-3 this season was the program's best since 1990, when they were 31-4 overall and 16-0 in the Big Eight.
Next outing for the Dodgers is Monday, when they welcome Des Moines North.