Walker takes field in honor of father who died earlier in the day
BY ETHAN LILLARD
FORT MADISON- The little yellow lineup card that holds Fort Madison’s starting roster doesn’t change much, but Tuesday night it adorned a simple message on the back that meant everything– That was 4 U pops!! I love U!
Fort Madison Head Coach Ron Walker lost his father just hours prior to the Bloodhounds’ doubleheader against Central Lee at Fort Madison High School Tuesday night. Like many would have assumed, Walker didn’t know for sure whether he was going to make it to the ball field that day.
Unlike many others would have, Walker made his way to the field and coached both contests, as Fort Madison went on to hand Central Lee just its second loss of the season, splitting the doubleheader with the Hawks with a 3-1 win and a 4-3 loss.
For the Hounds’ first-year head coach, there was no doubt his dad had a helping hand in the outcome of the contests.
“That was the toughest National Anthem that I have been through and the most grueling seven innings I have been through, but pops was here and we pulled it out,” Walker said. “He was watching every inning and loving every minute of it.”
With it being Senior Night for three Bloodhounds (Dayne Cordray, Jordyn Gerdes and Logan Rashid), it only made sense that Cordray would draw the start for Fort Madison in game one.
Tyler Hopp started the game with a single, but Cordray immediately made up for the allowed hit, catching Hopp trying to steal second before he delivered to the plate. Cordray was able to make the pickoff move as Hopp was tagged out for out No. 1.
Singles were the theme in the first, as Sam Hirner and KJ Skow followed with singles of their own to collect the 1-0 lead for Central Lee.
Fort Madison was able to load the bases in the home half of the first, but a line out to right field put an end to the two-out rally.
It took until the bottom of the fourth inning for the Bloodhounds to score their first run. Brandon Reichelt led off with a walk, before Vasin Thurman singled. Two-straight outs ensued, but Landes Williams kept the inning alive by hitting a ball to short that was mishandled on the throw to first base. The ball got away and pinch runner Logan Rashid came in to score to tie the game at one.
It looked like Central Lee was going to take back the lead in the top of the fifth, as they had the bases loaded and the No. 2 batter in the order at the plate. Cordray was able to force Hirner into a groundout to Jason Thurman at shortstop, putting an end to the threat and keeping the game tied at one.
“Dayne did a great job on the mound and executing pitches when he had to,” Walker said. “He ran a couple fastballs in on the hands and got a couple of infield popups to be able to hold the runners at bay.
“We had a 6-3 ground ball that Vasin Thurman had a good pick on at first base to get us out out of the inning. That gave us a lot of momentum and that’s winning baseball.”
After retiring the Hawks in three-up, three-down fashion in the top of the seventh inning, the Bloodhounds’ destiny was in their own hands with the game still knotted at one and one final chance at the plate.
It looked like game one was heading for extra innings until Reed Fehseke drew a walk, Jason Thurman singled and Jordryn Gerdes was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. Reichelt stepped to the dish in the cleanup spot and worked a full count before taking ball four to walk in Fehseke for the walk-off win.
Cordray pitched all seven innings on 77 pitches, allowing five hits and one earned run. For the Hounds’ senior captain, he knew he had to come out and give it everything he had for his head coach who was giving it everything he had making it to the game the same day of his father’s passing.
“It’s amazing,” Cordray said about being able to pick up the win for his head coach. “You love baseball because of stuff like that. It’s crazy what can happen.”
Once again it was Central Lee that plated the first run of the game in the second contest thanks to a Fort Madison fielding error.
The Hawks’ momentum was short lived however, as Fort Madison responded with a three-run bottom of the fourth. Again the runs came with two outs.
After a ground out and a line out, Reichelt kept the home-half of the fourth alive with a walk. Vasin Thurman and Cordray then followed with walks of their own to load the bases. Tate Johnson came through with a full count blooper over the head of the Hawks’ first basemen, plating Rashid and Thurman. Central Lee attempted to throw Cordray out at third, but the throw got away and allowed the senior to score as well and give the Bloodhounds a 3-1 advantage.
Central Lee used a walk, a Hound fielding error and a single to load the bases in the top of the fifth, before tying the game at three.
Again Central Lee was put down in three-up, three-down fashion to end the top of the seventh inning, allowing the Bloodhounds to again control their own destiny.
Unlike game one, Fort Madison wasn’t able to answer in the home half of the seventh, as they were retired after just four batters, forcing extra innings.
KJ Skow started the top of the eighth with a triple before a Simmons sacrifice fly gave Central Lee the go-ahead run with the 4-3 lead.
Reichelt was able to collect a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth to keep the Bloodhounds’ hopes alive, but a line out in the following at-bat gave the Hawks the 4-3 win in game two.
Johnson led the way for the Hounds with two RBIs. Fehseke was hit with the loss after coming on in relief for three innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. Gerdes tossed five innings and allowed four hits and no earned runs.
“We went toe to toe with a team that is now 18-2 for 15-straight innings,” Walker said. “We had a big huddle there at the end and there was a lot of ‘I love you coach,’ and ‘We’re all family,’ so it was a pretty emotional night and they are a great group of kids. They played their tail off tonight.”
Fort Madison is now 14-14 on the season and will take on Denison today at the University of Iowa with a 5:00P.M. start time.