FORT DODGE - Neither a late surge nor a fast start helped the Marshalltown baseball team find success in Monday's CIML Iowa Conference doubleheader at Fort Dodge.
The Class 4A third-ranked Dodgers dispelled both of the Bobcats' attempts at an upset, steering clear of MHS for wins of 6-4 and 15-4 at Ed McNeil Field.
Fort Dodge (28-5, 16-2) moved within one win of clinching at least a share of the conference title for the first time since 2009. The Dodgers got a pair of complete game pitching performances and enough offense to support them, winning their seventh straight in league play.
Marshalltown (14-17, 5-13) made a late-inning comeback during the first game, cutting Fort Dodge's four-run lead in half with two runs in the sixth. Blake Judkins and Bennett Mann hit consecutive RBI singles to score Alex Thompson and Kyle Carnahan, but Fort Dodge hurler Tyler Vaughn (7-0) got out of the jam with a double play.
The Dodgers tacked on an insurance run, scoring on a wild pitch in the sixth, to regain a 6-3 advantage. MHS got singles from Connor Bueghly and Tre Blackford, and Thompson's sacrifice fly made it 6-4, but that's where the threat ended.
"We ran into a very good team on its home field, and we knew going in that we'd have to play clean games in order to have a chance to win," said MHS head coach Steve Hanson. "We gave away too many runs via walk and error but still had a chance in the seventh. We had too far to go ultimately, but our guys hung in there."
Vaughn, the CIML Iowa's winningest pitcher, allowed two earned runs on seven hits and one walk with four strikeouts. J.C. Hatcher had a double and three RBIs for the Dodgers, while leadoff batter Will Gormally was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Austin Sowers went 4 2/3 innings in his varsity debut on the mound for the Bobcats. He allowed five runs on seven hits and five walks.
In game two, Marshalltown jumped on Gormally for four runs with two out in the top of the first. Carnahan, Judkins, Mann, Hillygus, Bueghly and Brandon Pettigrew charted six straight singles before the final out came.
Fort Dodge went down in order in the bottom half but scored at least twice in each of the next four frames.
Isaac Lehman went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer that ended the game to lead the Dodgers' 16-hit onslaught. Luke VanderMaten was 3-for-4, Gormally helped his own cause with two hits and three RBIs, and Austin Halligan was 2-for-2 with a double and four RBIs.
Six of Marshalltown's nine hits came in that four-run first inning. Carnahan went 2-for-2 in the second game and 3-for-5 on the night to raise his conference-leading batting average to .500.
Mann, who lasted just 2 1/3 on the mound, also had two hits in the Bobcats' sixth straight league loss.
"Our start in game two was fantastic but we simply had no answer for their offense and couldn't make the four-run lead stand up," said Hanson. "We'll be in similar games against similar teams all week, so we have a great opportunity ahead if we're willing to keep working to get better."
Marshalltown's grueling schedule continues with today's road game at No. 4-ranked Dowling Catholic, and seventh-rated Waukee comes to MHS on Thursday to close out conference play.