Briar Evans saved the day on the mound, and the Creston offense heated up with 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings to finish off a 13-3 victory over Clarinda Monday night as the Panthers returned home after a week of road contests.
Clarinda, now 0-4 in the Hawkeye 10 and 1-8 overall, was hanging with the Panthers in a 3-3 tie after striking for two runs in the fourth inning.
Creston had been using a variety of pitchers to get tuned up for important conference games this week against some of the top teams in the league — Carroll Kuemper, Shenandoah and Glenwood. Nate Haley allowed one run in one inning before Cole Crawford zipped through two hitless innings, picking off the only baserunner after issuing a walk.
Then Trevor Luther made his first appearance of the season on the mound, and struggled with control in allowing two hits and two walks.
As Clarinda tied the score at 3-3 with no outs and a runner on first, Evans came in from shortstop and shut the door with a fielder’s choice and two strikeouts.
Evans, gaining the victory, then retired the Cardinals in order in the fifth and sixth as the Panther offense was getting to Clarinda starter Troy Aldrich and two relievers.
“Evans gets warmed up as the game goes along,” Creston coach Steve Birchard said. “It worked out well for us tonight. Trevor has thrown a couple bullpens, but this was his first time out there in a game. I wanted to go one inning with everybody and then finish with Kadon Hulett, but Trevor was struggling a little and Briar came in and was steady. Trevor swung the bat well, though.”
Luther twice triggered big innings with run-scoring hits. With two outs in the first inning, he delivered a two-run single to center for an early 2-1 lead. His two-run double to deep center in the sixth made it a 10-3 game. He finished with four RBI on two hits.
The Panthers broke the 3-3 tie with a four-run fifth inning, set up by an error and a walk.
A passed ball when Luther drew a walk made it 4-3, and Brandon Phipps hit a sacrifice fly. A fly hit to right by Jon Birchard was lost in the lights for another RBI hit, and Garrett Taylor stroked a single to left to make it 7-3.
Evans stabbed a liner back to the mound while retiring the Cardinals in order in the sixth.
The Panther hitters went back to work in the bottom half. Haley drew a bases-loaded walk for an RBI before Luther’s big hit. Phipps lined a single to left, a wild pitch made it 12-3 and Crawford ended the game on the mercy rule with a sacrifice fly to center.
“Our hitters did a good job of battling up there,” Birchard said. “Their starer wasn’t bad, he just got a little tired. I was a little frustrated early on with some little things, base running stuff and bunt defense. We were in a tighter game than we expected and I didn’t think we were dialed in. But we responded well.”
The Panthers played Monday night without the services of second baseman Conner Pals and left fielder Trey Benson, and will be without them for several weeks. Both were injured during the weekend football camp at Northwest Missouri State.
Benson broke a thumb during a blocking drill and may require surgery because of possible ligament damage. Likewise, on Monday Pals was awaiting news on whether surgery is required for a fractured acromion (part of the scapula in the shoulder blade).
“Pals is out four to six weeks,” Birchard said. “He may need surgery if further X-rays show it is not aligned properly.”
Birchard, a member of the football coaching staff who was at the camp and saw Pals get injured, said he may modify the policy of allowing players to participate in all of the contact activities at the camp.
“We can’t have our season dependant on getting hurt there,” Birchard said. “It’s bad enough now, but what if it was a couple of our pitchers? We need to do something different. Maybe if they go to the camp, they could get all of the individual instruction with the Northwest guys, and take part in the team practice they allow before the scrimmage, but then I’d ask them not to participate in the scrimmage.”
Garret Taylor, who had been sharing left field duty with Benson, started Monday in left and went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Jon Birchard played second and was 1-2 with a run and RBI.
The Panthers host Class 2A seventh-ranked Carroll Kuemper in a varsity doubleheader today, starting at 5:30 p.m. Birchard said starting pitchers are Phipps and Keaton Hulett.
Chase Shiltz struck out 10 in six innings as the Panther JV defeated Clarinda, 6-1.
The offense, meanwhile, collected 11 hits including two each by Brody Frain, Kadon Hulett and Shiltz, who drove in two runs. Colton Bolinger drove in a run and Brandon Lee had a run-scoring double for the Panthers, now 3-4.
“We hit the ball much better than the Red Oak game,” coach Kyle Wilson said, “against a similar pitcher. We were more focused tonight. Chase threw well. He got ahead of hitters in innings three through six. He really settled in.”
Creston 13, Clarinda 3
R H E
Clarinda 100 200 — 3 5 5
Creston 201 046 — 13 7 1
Clar: Troy Aldrich 0K 4BB, Jordan Peterman (6) 0K 1BB, Dedric Ketterick (6() 0K 2BB and Brook Stephens Cr: Nate Haley 1K 0BB, Cole Crawford (2) 1K 1BB, Trevor Luther (4) 0K 2BB, Briar Evans (4) 3K 0BB and Zach Powers. W — Evans. L— Aldrich. 2B — Cr: Evans, Luther. RBI —Clar: Ketterick; Cr: Luther 4, Brandon Phipps 2, Jon Birchard 1, Garret Taylor 1, Haley 1, Keaton Hulett 1, Crawford 1. Multiple hitters — Clar: Aldrich 2; Cr: Luther 2.