BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison and Burlington ended a long night of baseball exactly where they started — separated by one game in the Southeast Conference standings.
The two teams split a doubleheader on Fort Madison’s home field on Thursday night. The Bloodhounds won the first game 2-1, while the Grayhounds won 3-0 in the second game that was delayed almost an hour because of lightning in the area.
Burlington (12-4 overall, 9-1 conference) kept its lead in the conference standings, with Fort Madison (14-3, 8-2) just one game back heading into the second half of league play.
“We knew what we were up against tonight — a couple of big arms, a good team, great record,” Fort Madison coach Ron Walker said. “So that’s what we expected — two games where we had to scratch and claw and compete, and we did. So I’m proud of our guys.
“I told the guys tonight the arms we saw will be the best we see until we get late in the season. We competed in the box for the most part, and we were a hit or two away from being in that second game.”
It was “vintage Bloodhound baseball,” Walker said, in the first game, when Fort Madison figured out a way to get just enough runs against Burlington starter Jacob Zahner.
Zahner had four strikeouts in three hitless innings to open the game, and seemed to be cruising through the fourth before he walked Reiburn Turnbull and Tate Johnson. Garrett Hannum then hit a ground ball to Burlington shortstop Hunter Ford that looked like it was going to end the inning, but Johnson beat Ford to second base to keep the inning going. Aidan Pennock then bounced a single into right field to drive in Turnbull and Johnson.
“That’s a big play,” Walker said of Johnson’s race to get to second. “He’s safe, keeps the inning alive, and then Aidan gets the single.”
Burlington’s only run came in the fifth when Owen Fawcett’s ground out scored Alex Fawcett.
Kane Williams was the winning pitcher, allowing five hits over seven innings while striking out four, two of those coming in the seventh inning.
“Kane did a great job coming out and pounding the zone,” Walker said. “The defense made great plays. That’s kind of our forte, let them put it into play and then play defense.”
The Bloodhounds weren’t nearly as sharp to start the second game. Burlington got a run in the first inning on Brock Krieger’s sacrifice fly, then three Fort Madison errors in the second inning allowed the Grayhounds to score two more runs.
That prompted Walker to huddle with his team after the inning.
“Plays we made the first game we didn’t make in the first two innings of the second game,” Walker said. “If we make those, it’s still 0-0.”
The game was stopped because of lightning, and when it resumed the Bloodhounds couldn’t get anything going against Burlington pitcher Juan Reyes. Reyes struck out 10, including five consecutive in the fourth and fifth innings.
Fort Madison had just three hits — a double by Jason Thurman and singles by Vasin Thurman and Hannum.