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Dodgers lose in championship game

July 29, 2012

DES MOINES - It may not have achieved the ultimate goal, but the Fort Dodge baseball team still proved plenty this year.

The Dodgers' dream of a Class 4A state title was derailed by top-ranked Ankeny last night at Principal Park as the Hawks rode the pitching of Matt Johnson to a 10-0 six-inning victory.

It's the second state title in school history for Ankeny, which set a big-school record for wins in a season with 43 victories against just two losses. Ankeny was playing in its sixth state title game and added this crown to one in 1992.

Article Photos

The Hawks also won a school-record 29 straight games to close the season. Their last loss came on June 11 against West Des Moines Dowling. That was the Hawks' second straight setback after 14 wins to start the season.

"We lost to an awfully good team," said Dodger Coach Matt Elsbecker. "We weren't going to back down or let up, but we just came up short in the end.

"It's tough to reflect right now, though, because the prize was right there in front of us. Ankeny was just the better team."

Fact Box

Ankeny 10, Fort Dodge 0 (6 innings)

Fort Dodge 000 000 0 2 0

Ankeny 210 106 10 19 1

Tyler Vaughn (L, 10-1; 3 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K); Will Gormally (2.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K), Nathan Matthes (0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K), Keegan Gormally (0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 B, 0 K) and Devon Harms. Matt Johnson (W, 7-1; 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K) and Cody Olson. WP- W. Gormally, HBP- FD: Harms (by Johnson); A- Ross Larson (by Vaughn), Joel Lanning (by W. Gormally). LOB- Fort Dodge 4, Ankeny 12. 2B- A: Keaton McKinney 2, Chad Norris. Sac- FD: JC Hatcher. SB- A: Buenting.

Fort Dodge was vying for its first state baseball title since 1969. The Dodgers (36-8) hadn't reached the finals since 1989. They were semifinalists in 2005, 2007, 2009 and last year under Elsbecker, who was coaching in his first state championship game last night.

Ankeny also became the first large school-class team to sweep the summer state titles since West Des Moines Valley won both baseball and softball in 2005. The Hawks' softball team won the newly minted 5A state title last week.

It's the sixth time in state history that one school has won both titles in the same summer.

Johnson, just a junior, held the Dodgers to just two hits while his teammates backed him with a 19-hit outburst against four Dodger pitchers. The Hawks broke the state record for hits in a championship game and teammates Garrett Fort and Tanner Buenting became just the 12th and 13th players in the history of the state tournament with four hits in a championship game, both going, 4-for-5.

Fort Dodge had been riding the momentum of two exciting state tournament wins, including Friday night's 4-2 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy. But the Hawks took the upper hand almost immediately, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first and they never looked back.

The Dodgers lost plenty of talent from last year's state tournament team, but Elsbecker's squad still managed to set a school-record for wins and get over the hump after four straight losses in the semifinals before this year.

"We've been saying all year long we have something to prove and I think we did despite the score of this game," said senior Isaac Lehamn, who had the game-winning hit in a quarterfinal victory over Dowling. " I think we still represented the town of Fort Dodge well."

The Dodgers will lose seven seniors off this year's squad, six who took the field in the title game. Sam Edwards, Cole Jarrrad, Will Gormally, Luke VanderMaten, Devraj Thakor, Nathan Matthes and Lehman all put on a Dodger uniform for the final time.

Junior Tyler Vaughn took the loss, his first of the season against 10 victories. He was chased after three innings and gave way to Will Gormally, who went 2 1/3 innings. Matthes and Keegan Gormally followed, but failed to record an out as the Hawks put up six runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.

Keaton McKinney had a 2-run double off the wall in left to start the scoring in the bottom of the first for the Hawks. Ankeny added single runs in the second and fourth innings on RBI singles from Fort and Buenting.

The Hawks finished it off in the sixth, sending 10 batters to the plate. McKinney smacked another 2-run double to just about the same spot in left for the first two runs and the Hawks strung together five straight hits to put the game away.

Fort Dodge got hits from Will Gormally and Lehman. The Dodgers had a couple of chances against Johnson, putting runners at second and third in the third inning and moving a runner to second in the sixth, but they never pushed a run across.

Johnson finished with three strikeouts and one walk. He also hit a batter.

Vaughn was charged with four of the runs on eight hits. Gormally was tagged for six hits and four runs while Matthes was charged with the final two runs of the game.

It's the third time this school year that Ankeny has ended a Dodger sports season. The Hawks beat Fort Dodge in the 4A football playoffs last fall and eliminated the Dodger softball team in a 5A regional final to reach the state tournament.



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