BY ETHAN LILLARD
FORT MADISON- It happened.
With most of the season now in the rearview, Fort Madison’s baseball team pushed one game over the .500 mark on the season, coming out with a 9-4 win against Van Buren at home Tuesday night. With the win, the Bloodhounds move to 13-12 on the year and have now won four-straight games.
The last time Fort Madison recorded more than 10 wins in a season and went on a four-game win streak was in 2012-2013 when the Hounds posted a final record of 18-23. With five games left on the schedule, Fort Madison has an opportunity to finish with a winning record for the first time in over a decade.
Small ball approach helps run production
Jordyn Gerdes and Van Buren’s Ryan Wolf both did well in their starts from the mound, as each team was held scoreless through the first two innings Tuesday night.
The Warriors were the first to break the scoreless drought in the top of the third. Jonah Heckenberg was hit by a pitch with one out before Jacob Plecker came through with a double to plate Heckenberg for the 1-0 lead.
The Bloodhounds responded with some small ball strategy in the home-half of the second. Landes Williams laid down a last-second bunt to begin the inning, legging out a single. Wolf then threw two wild pitches, allowing Williams to get all the way to third. Kane Williams bunted in Landes Williams, tying the game at one.
“The plan was to go bunt, bunt for a base hit or a base hit and then a sacrifice and let the top of the order go to work with Landes on second,” Fort Madison Head Coach Ron Walker said. “Kane did a great job of staying in the middle of the field and driving him in for the first out of the inning and first run of the game for us.”
Fort Madison took over the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Starting the home-half of the fifth with the No. 7, 8, and 9 batters coming to the plate, the Bloodhounds had no trouble, starting with a Dayne Cordray infield single. Landes Williams then drew a walk and Kane Williams singled after to load the bases for Fort Madison with no outs.
Leadoff hitter Reed Fehseke came through with a sacrifice pop-out to right field to plate Cordray for the 2-1 lead. With runners on the corners after the sac fly, Walker used even more strategy.
Walker had Kane Williams take off at first as soon as he saw the pitcher’s leg leave the ground. Plecker saw Williams get the jump and switched to a pickoff attempt and tossed the ball over to first. Landes Williams was waiting in anticipation of the throw and took off from third base towards home as soon as the ball left Plecker’s hand, crossing the plate just before the tag to give the Hounds a 3-1 lead.
Williams was safe at first as well and advanced to third base the following at-bat thanks to a Van Buren fielding error during Jasin Thurman’s at-bat. Brandon Reichelt plated Thurman on a single before courtesy runner Diego Lozano came in to score on another Warrior’s error. Vasin Thurman then doubled in the fifth run of the inning, as the Hounds went ahead 6-1.
Again it was the No. 7, 8 and 9 batters that came through for Fort Madison in the bottom of the sixth. Leading off the inning after the Hounds batted around in the fifth, Cordray started the frame with a triple. Landes Williams walked before Fehseke loaded the bases with a one-out walk of his own.
Jason Thurman had a sacrifice groundout to score Cordray and Gerdes singled after to plate both Williams and Fehseke for the 9-1 advantage.
With an eight-run lead and only three outs remaining, Fort Madison survived a three-run top of the seventh from Van Buren to go on and win by the final of 9-4.
“We have a lot of confidence no matter where we are in our lineup,” Walker said. “We have guys that take great at-bats and they have a plan.
“The thing we’re starting to see now that we didn’t see early in the year was coming through with two outs and not leaving baserunners on. We’re starting to see those two-out hits. Tonight we had two two-out hits in a row. Guys are getting in the box and competing a little bit more with two outs and bringing in some runs. That’s good to see.”
Gerdes led the Hounds with two RBIs on a 1 for 4 day at the plate. Landes Williams paced Fort Madison with three runs scored, while Cordray collected two runs. Gerdes also picked up the win, going 6 1/3 innings on 103 pitches. He allowed nine hits, three earned runs and struck out six.
Fort Madison’s next contest is scheduled for Monday, July 8 back at home against New London.