BY ETHAN LILLARD
FORT MADISON- Twenty-four games into the season and Fort Madison baseball is now at the .500 mark, sitting at 12-12 after coming away with both games of a doubleheader Monday night against Keokuk at Fort Madison High School.
The Bloodhounds had previously defeated Keokuk for both games of a doubleheader earlier in the season, making Monday’s twin bill a clean season sweep of the Chiefs for the Bloodhounds.
Different from the first time around was the scoring. After Fort Madison scored a combined 42 runs in the first two games against Keokuk, the Hounds scored 10 in the two combined Monday.
“It was good to get back on our home field after being on the road for a few weeks,” Fort Madison Head Coach Ron Walker said. “We had a nice crowd out here and came out and played a couple of nice clean ball games and picked up a couple Ws.”
The first contest was a pitcher’s duel between Fort Madison’s Jace Burgher and Keokuk’s Ryan Johnson. The two both took shutouts into the third inning before the Bloodhounds opened up the scoring.
Reed Fehseke was hit by a pitch with one out in the home-half of the third inning, before a Jason Thurman walk put two on. Brandon Reichelt came through with a two-out walk to load the bases, before Vasin Thurman walked to bring in Fehseke for the first run.
Tate Johnson then came through with an infield single, hustling down the line and just making it on a bang-bang play for the 2-0 Fort Madison lead.
“We talk about hard 90s and (Johnson) took a hard 90 on that infield hit and drove in the second run of the game,” Walker said.
The Chiefs went three-up, three-down to end the top of the fourth inning before scoring their first runs in the fifth. Back-to-back fielding errors allowed two runners to reach safely with one out. Josh Wills then produced a sacrifice fly ball for what would be Keokuk’s lone run of the game.
An error and a walk put two runners on for Fort Madison in the bottom of the sixth inning. Fort Madison starting pitcher Burgher attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Johnson was ruled out advancing to home. In the process, Burgher stumbled at first base and injured his leg forcing him from the rest of the contest.
Diego Lozano came in to run for Burgher and helped secure the final security run for Cordray. With two outs and Fehseke at the dish, Lozano started to steal second before the the pitch. The pitcher, Colton Atterberg, then tossed the ball to second base and got Lozano in a pickle.
With Lozano between first and second and all of Keokuk’s attention on him, Dayne Cordray went from third to home. The Chiefs tried to make a plat at the plate, but Cordray scored for the 3-1 lead and Lozano made his way safely to second in the process.
A single and an error by Fort Madison in the top of the seventh inning brought the winning run to the plate for Keokuk with no outs. Fortunately for the Bloodhounds, relief pitcher Jason Thurman recorded the next three outs in order, as Fort Madison went on to win 3-1.
Vasin Thurman and Tate Johnson had an RBI each for Fort Madison. Burgher picked up the win, going six innings on 72 pitches, allowing two hits and no earned runs while striking out three batters. Jason Thurman picked up the save allowing just one hit and striking out two.
After Cordray held Keokuk to two-straight innings of three-up, three-down, Fort Madison collected the lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Vasin Thurman started things off with a single, before advancing to second on an error and then moving to third. Thurman was then able to come in and score on a wild pitch during Cordray’s at bat, giving the Bloodhounds the 1-0 lead.
A Three-up, three-down top of the third led to more Hound runs. The Bloodhounds started the bottom of the third with back-to-back walks. Kane Williams then stole third and Fehseke stole second, before Williams came in to score on a Jason Thurman groundout to make it 2-0.
Jordryn Gerdes delivered with a double to plate Fehseke to make it a 3-0 advantage. A groundout ensued, before Vasin Thurman came through with a line drive up the middle to plate Gerdes and give the Hounds a 4-0 cushion.
An error and a Brandon Reichelt single scored Jason Thurman for run No. 5, before the Cheifs plated their first run of the second game.
Levi Boudweyn, Dalton Boeker and Keegan Burke each singled to begin the sixth. A Fort Madison error then allowed the first run to score for Keokuk, before Cordray put an end to the threat with a strikeout.
The Hounds added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Kane Williams singled, before Fehseke reached safely on a dropped strike three. Williams advanced to third on the same pitch. Jason Thurman then singled in Williams and Gerdes singled in Fehseke to put the game away, coming out with the 7-1 win.
“The past couple of years we have struggled with any conference games,” Gerdes said. “It feels good to beat some conference teams for once.”
Cordray pitched the complete game, scattering five hits over seven innings on 108 pitches and allowed no earned runs. Cordray recorded five punch outs and improved his ERA to 2.314 on the year.
“He’s done a really good job of making adjustments throughout the season,” Walker said of Cordray. “He came out and was around the zone all night long, which is what we ask for.”
Jason Thurman and Gerdes led the way for Fort Madison in game two with two RBIs each. Fehseke and Kane Williams each came around to score twice.
The Bloodhounds are now 12-12 on the year and will take on Van Buren back at home tomorrow for a single contest.