Hounds roll Panthers 9-2; get Central DeWitt Monday
BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Landes Williams wanted to finish what he started.
His coach thought it was best to leave the masterpiece intact.
Williams struck out 12 and allowed three hits in 6 1/3 innings as Fort Madison opened Class 3A substate tournament play with a 9-2 home win over Mount Pleasant in Friday’s quarterfinal.
The Bloodhounds (25-8), the second seed in Substate 4, play third seed DeWitt Central (21-15) in Monday’s semifinal at a site to be determined. Fort Madison will be the host school.
Fort Madison, which stayed in contention for the Southeast Conference title until late in the season, lost four of its last seven games heading into the postseason.
“I think one of the things we talked about late in the season, especially the last couple of weeks, was fatigue was setting in,” Fort Madison coach Ron Walker said. “We really talked about, ‘Guys, don’t be setting with 20 wins, 22 wins, whatever we were at. What I said was they were going to remember how we finished, not how the season started. You say you went 24-8 and you come out and lose the first round of (substate), that’s what people are going to remember. So we talked about the lot here in the last week.
“The kids did a great job.”
“We had a little bit of a rough end of the season,” Williams said. “Hopefully we can get a roll going in the postseason.”
Williams kept the Panthers (7-25) guessing all night with a fastball-curveball combination. His only rough inning was the second, when Mount Pleasant got both of its runs, but even in that inning he allowed just one hit and struck out three.
Williams started the seventh inning by getting Dalton Gardner on a fly ball to center field, but he allowed hits to Jack Johnson and Trevor Wellington. His pitch count was in the high 90s, and Walker decided to let Jason Thurman finish the game.
“No sense in pushing it,” Walker said.
Thurman struck out Zerek Venghaus, and then Johnson was thrown out trying to steal third to end the game.
Williams struck out two of the first three hitters he faced. But he hit Gardner with a pitch to start the second inning, then Gardner scored on Johnson’s double. He walked Wellington, but struck out Venghaus and Will Edeker and looked to be close to getting out of it.
But Williams tried to pick Wellington off at second base, and his high throw glanced off the glove of Thurman, allowing Johnson to score from third. Williams then struck out Cooper Keldgord to end the inning.
“It was a relief getting out of that,” Williams said. “After that, our guys started swinging the bats, stringing some good at-bats together.”
Fort Madison scored four runs in the third inning. Thurman’s triple scored Williams, then Thurman scored on his brother Vasin’s sacrifice fly. Reiburn Turnbull added a two-run double later in the inning.
The Bloodhounds got four more runs in the fourth. Garrett Hannum had a bases-loaded walk, Kane Williams had a sacrifice fly, and Turnbull delivered a two-run triple.
Tate Johnson’s fifth-inning triple scored Vasin Thurman with the final run.
“I told them (after the second inning), ‘You’re not going to win a baseball game not scoring any runs,’” Walker said. “Even with the first couple of runs they got, we’ve still got to score to win. Zero runs isn’t going to win a ballgame.
“We worked through and found a groove.”
Williams allowed just two baserunners from the third through sixth innings. He walked Carter Amos with two outs in the third, but picked him off at first to end the inning. He walked Venghaus to start the fifth, but got a double play to end the inning.
“It was my fastball, getting ahead early in the count, and then just using my curveball to keep them off balance,” Williams said.
“Landes was coming out, finding the strike zone early, working the count,” Walker said. “He gets stronger when the night goes on. Tonight he was able to keep his (curveball) around the strike zone, keep them off balance. He did a great job of setting the tone.”
Fort Madison had 12 hits. Turnbull had three.
“Reiburn had more hard hits, better contact, tonight than he’s had all year,” Walker said. “He’s got great hands, makes a lot of contact, but he’s been rolling it over a lot lately. He was getting the barrel on it tonight.”