For a while Thursday night, it looked like the Creston and Nodaway Valley baseball teams were going to battle it out in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel as Brandon Phipps and Ryan Williams kept throwing zeros up on the scoreboard.
But the Panthers finally struck for two runs in the third inning, which was more than enough for Phipps, who threw a complete game shutout four-hitter as Creston cruised to a 7-0 win.
Junior Trey Benson got things started with a leadoff single to left and then scored on Cole Crawford’s single up the middle. Later in the inning, Trevor Luther drove in Zach Powers with an RBI double.
Luther finished the game batting 4-for-4 with three RBI, finishing just a home run short of hitting for the cycle.
But it wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Panthers finally added some insurance runs.
Keaton Hulett hit a single to start the rally and scored on Luther’s triple to the gap in right-center. Luther and Conner Pals later scored when Jon Birchard hit a single to right and an error was made in the field.
“We got in some situations early and were able to overcome,” Nodaway Valley head coach Dan Jameson said. “That was a big plus there. We buckled down when we needed to at times, but let it slip in the middle a little and it ended up costing us.”
For Panther head coach Steve Birchard, getting production from the bottom two batters in his order — Birchard and Benson — was key.
“When you start with those guys at the bottom moving the ball and getting on base, you start to score seven, eight runs,” he said. “The top of the order is a year older, year stronger. You hit the ball on the nose and it’s a sharp-hit ball.”
Creston tacked on two more runs in the sixth, with RBI hits from Briar Evans and Luther.
Phipps, meanwhile, cruised his way through the Wolverine lineup.
The junior pitcher recorded 10 strikeouts while walking just three batters and giving up only four hits.
“He threw right at 100 pitches, probably more than we should be doing, but we get him out there and he keeps going,” Birchard said. “I think he’s a smarter pitcher already this year. He doesn’t think he has to throw something offspeed all the time. He brings his fastball, and he was able to catch a few guys by bringing it at the right time.”
Birchard said he was pleased to see Phipps continue throwing strikes in the sixth and seventh innings with more of a cushion.
Another bright spot for the Panthers was the play of Powers behind the plate. Powers threw out two runners trying to steal second base.
“We sort of joke, but he didn’t throw a guy out until the last game of the year last year, and he’s already got two,” Birchard said. “It shuts them down. Shutting down the first couple of guys that run is important.”
Creston, now 2-1 overall, returns to action Wednesday at Lewis Central, while Nodaway Valley, now 1-2 overall, returns to action Tuesday at Bedford.
The Creston JV team defeated Nodaway Valley 9-2 on Thursday.
Jon Birchard earned the win for the Panthers, throwing three innings of four-hit ball with two strikeouts and three walks. Trey Benson pitched one inning of relief.
Birchard helped his own cause with two runs batted in, while Brody Frain, Cody Crawford and Kadon Hulett each drove in one run.
Joe Herr and Josh Alsup each drove in one run for the Wolverines.
Creston 7, Nodaway Valley 0
R H E
NV 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Creston 002 032 x — 7 14 0
Ryan Williams 3K 2BB, Mason Clarke (6) 0K 0BB and Aaron Baudler. Brandon Phipps 10K 3BB and Zach Powers. W — Phipps. L— Williams. HR — none. 3B — Cr: Cole Crawford 1, Trevor Luther 1. 2B — Cr: Briar Evans 1, Keaton Hulett 1, Luther 1, Trey Benson 1. NV: Brad Baudler 1, Trevor Jameson 1. RBI — Luther 3, Crawford 1, Evans 1, Jon Birchard 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Luther 4, Crawford 2, Zach Powers 2, Hulett 2, Benson 2.