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Fort Dodge’s baseball coach Blake Utley was observing as well as teaching during Monday’s season opener against Des Moines Hoover. The Dodgers staff was given the opportunity to finally see the players’ reactions in real time. The final score at McNeil Field was important, but just as important was seeing encouraging signs, areas to work on, and a balanced template from the opening round, especially given the overall roster of youngsters. Utley said, “You always learn a little bit about yourself when you go from practice or scrimming to the competition.”

Fort Dodge got off to a strong start to the year with his 5-1 and 10-7 victories, where sophomore Jace Nekvinda had two hits in both contests and was the most consistent player in the game. The leadoff hitters drove in pairs, scored two runs, and hit two doubles in Twin Bill. Junior Jace Johnson hit a two-run homer and an RBI double in the opening game. In Game 2, his classmate Corbin Cooper had three runs and sophomore Rylan Kingley had three RBIs and four on bases.

Sophomore pitcher Lois Pederson, who previously had an impressive rookie season at the college level, picked up where he left off on the opening day mound and pitched six effective innings. The southpaw had five hits and no runs. Pederson was scheduled to play first base at Nightcap, but injured his hamstring in the top of the first inning and did not return. Senior Dalton Rosales and senior Nate Beekman also competed on the mound.

The Dodgers will return Tuesday against Hampton-DuMont/CAL at Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo. Utley said, “That’s the great thing about baseball, you can win or lose and you can start all over again the next day. We now know who we are and where we are, and we will continue to build from there (tonight) and then return to practice to hone our skills, both physically and mentally.”

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