BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison will have to wait until the end of the week to see if they’ll get a piece of the Southeast Iowa Conference title.
The Hounds wrapped up conference play Monday night with a 9-3, 0-2 split with Burlington to finish loop play at 7-3. The Grayhounds (7-6, 6-2) have two games left with a makeup at Fairfield (2-10, 0-6) on Friday night.
BHS sophomore Juan Reyes, was a walk away from a perfect game in the night cap as he held the Hounds hitless going seven innings in the shutout.
Reyes struck out seven Hounds in the win. Fort Madison Coach Ron Walker said he just got stronger as the night went on.
“We squared up a lot of balls up, but we just hit ’em at people and he got stronger as he went,” Walker said. ‘The defense made plays behind him and when defense makes plays behind you here in southeast Iowa, it goes a long ways.”
The Grayhounds got on top early in the nightcap. Taylor Bunton doubled Hound starter Matt Hopper’s second offering to right field. Hopper would get Mateo Rascon to fan, but Brock Dengler singled moving Bunton to third.
Tyson Power would ground into a fielder’s choice at third scoring Bunton. Hopper would work a ground out in the next at bat to end the inning. Mason Fort would homer in the top of the fifth to dead center for the Grayhounds’ other run.
Brandon Reichelt would work a walk with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to bring the tying run to the plate, but Vasin Thurman would pop a 1-1 pitch to Rascon at short to end the game.
Hopper went 4 2/3 giving up two runs both earned on six hits and three strike outs in the loss. Jason Thurman pitched the final 2 1/3 striking out three.
In the opener, the Bloodhounds scored in every inning but the second and freshman Kane Williams settled in after giving up a three-run 3rd to hold the Grayhounds at bay in the 9-3 win.
“I had my curve ball working most of the night and my fastball I could locate and everything worked out.” Williams said.
Fort Madison would start things off with one out in the bottom of the first when Reichelt grounded into a fielder’s choice scoring Jason Thurman on a close play at home. Grayhounds starter Jacob Zahner would get the inning under control coercing a pop fly and a ground out to strand Reichelt.
In the top of the third, Williams found a little trouble with two outs. After getting a infield fly and a strike out, Bunton and Fort both singled. Dengler would double to left field over the Hound’s Jace Burgher for two runs. Dengler would come around to score when Vasin Thurman’s throw on a Tyson Powers infield hit would get over Reichelt’s head at first.
Hopper would get a strike out to end the inning.
Fort Madison would tie things up in the bottom half when Garrett Hannum and Landes Williams both got on with no outs. Hannum would move to second on a balk and then to third when Williams bunted for a hit. Hannum would score when Zahner tried a pick off move that got away at first.
Reichelt would fan for the second out, but Vasin Thurman would single to score Williams before Reiburn Turnbull popped out to third to end the inning tied at 3-3.
Williams put the Grayhounds down in order in the fourth. Tate Johnson would start the Hound half with a double followed by nice bunt single down the 3rd base line from Kane Williams that moved Johnson to third. A Burgher ground out would plate Johnson for a 4-3 Fort Madison lead.
Reichelt would add a couple insurance runs with Jason Thurman standing at second after a double to left. Reichelt would connect on his second home run of the year on the first pitch to make it 6-3.
Kane Williams would go 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth and Reichelt would come up big again with two outs in the bottom half with a three-run double to center field to set the final score 9-3.
Williams went all seven giving up three runs, two earned off nine hits. He struck out six and didn’t allow a walk in the win.
“Kane has pounded the zone all year long and the defense made plays behind him. He’s a competitor,” Walker said. “He hits a batter on an 0-1 curve ball and gets the next guy induced into a double play. That’s what guys who compete do. They find a way.”
Reichelt led the charge at the plate going 2-for-4 with the double and homer and accounted for six RBI. Jason Thurman and Garrett Hannum each had two hits for Fort Madison.
Reichelt said despite the conference title still being up in the air, his focus is shifting to the post season.
“Conference is conference and that’s not really our goal. Our goal is state so we’re going to move our focus to state now,” he said.
Walker said he didn’t have a problem with the Hounds effort on Monday.
“I don’t have one problem with tonight other than once in a while some body language after a strike out. But the way we played, you walk out with your head up,” he said.
Walker said he told the Hounds in the bottom of the seventh of game two that not a lot of people had given them a chance and they had a real shot at the conference title and to go 3-0 against a good 4A school.
“Bloodhound baseball is here to stay,” Walker said. “I can’t be prouder of the kids and their efforts tonight. We’ve got a big week ahead of us and we’re gonna take tonight as a positive – hold our head high and run with it.”
The Bloodhounds have three games remaining before postseason play. The Hounds go to Van Buren Tuesday, and New London on Wednesday before senior night on Thursday where the team will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Bloodhounds 2000 State Championship.