Creston’s young softball team, which started eight freshmen and sophomores in game one here Tuesday, and seven in the nightcap, suddenly finds itself in familiar territory.
The Panthers are in the Haweye 10 race again — after four straight years of shared or sole championships — after sweeping Carroll Kuemper Catholic here Tuesday night, 9-2 and 13-8.
Creston is now 4-0 in conference play and 10-4 overall. The only other team unbeaten in league play is Harlan, which improved to 9-1 overall and 7-0 against conference foes with a sweep of Clarinda Tuesday, both by 14-4 scores.
Glenwood, ranked 15th in Class 4A, slipped to 3-2 in the league and 9-4 overall after a doubleheader split with Lewis Central Tuesday. The Rams visit Creston Thursday in another key conference tilt.
Nothing came easy for the Panthers in completing the home sweep Tuesday, however. After Creston sailed relatively easily in the opener, Kuemper took early leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in game two. Five Knight batters reached base via walks, three others were hit by pitches and the Panthers had four errors while the Knights collected six hits.
Finally, Creston erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 9-4 lead. In that outburst, Mackenzie Andreasen blasted a deep double for two of her five RBI in the game, shortly after Brenna Baker had boomed a one-hopper to the fence. The five-hit rally ended with an RBI single by Shelby Palser, who played right field in the nightcap after playing second base in the opener.
“Then we turn around and give them four runs in their sixth inning to make it 9-8,” said Creston coach Mike McCabe. “It was one of those deals, I told the kids, you’re gonna have nights like that, and you’re just going to have to find a way to get it done. We found a way.
“We talked about Glenwood last night,” he continued. “They didn’t find a way and got beat by Shenandoah at home the other night, 3-0. Kuemper is very capable, especially offensively, but we responded. We had a lot of big hits by several kids. That hit by Mac (Andreasen) when it was 10-8 was big. It’s a whole different game at 13-8.”
Haylee LaMasters picked up both victories, cruising more easily in the opener on a six-hitter with nine strikeouts and only two walks. In the second game, on the hottest day of the season to date, it wasn’t as smooth as Kuemper scored eight runs and stranded another 10 baserunners.
“I thought we got behind in the count too much and they will catch up in those situations,” McCabe said.
LaMasters worked an effective two-strike changeup to twice get out of trouble to end the fourth and sixth innings on strikeouts with runners aboard.
Much of the first game offense was provided by Natalie Mostek, who clubbed her fourth home run in six days with a two-run shot over the left field fence in the third inning to stretch the Panther lead to 4-0. Taylor Briley, LaMasters and Andreasen doubled in the same inning.
Mostek, a lean 5-foot-10 athlete, musters her new-found power with technique rather than bulk.
“I’ve been working with (former SWCC coach Bill) Krejci and my dad (Jeff Mostek) on getting my hands more back,” said the Panther catcher, “I can hit in the middle of the ball more and not get on top of it or underneath it. Last year I was not very consistent with that, but we’ve figured it out a little bit. If you have the right swing, the power is there.”
During the second game, Briley at shortstop and Josie Sickes in center collided while chasing a flyball. Sickels hung on for the catch, but was down for several minutes after taking a blow to her jaw.
She continued to play and McCabe said he would get an update at this morning’s practice on any possible concussion effects. Both were instrumental in the win, as Briley was 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored, while both Josie and Jamie Sickels scored twice.
“We work on that every other day,” McCabe said. “We just have to communicate a little louder. I’m glad nobody got hurt any worse. We’ll get back into practice (today) and try to get ready for Glenwood. We have things to work on, no doubt. Our baserunning has to get better.”
Creston 9, Kuemper 2
R H E
Kuemper 000 002 0 — 2 6 5
Creston 103 023 x — 9 13 3
CK: Moriah Bohlmann 0K 4BB and Bailey Nichols. Cr: Haylee LaMasters 9K 2BB and Natalie Mostek. W — LaMasters. L— Bohlmann. HR — Cr: Mostek. 3B — CK: Kendra Peter. 2B — Cr: LaMasters, Mackenzie Andreasen, Taylor Briley. RBI — CK: Hannah Macke 1, Kendra Peter 1; Cr: Mostek 3, Josie Sickels 1, LaMasters 1, Shelby Palser 1, Andreasen 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Josie Sickels 3, Mostek 3, Briley 2, Andreasen 2.
Creston 13, Kuemper 8
R H E
Kuemper 200 204 0 — 8 6 2
Creston 200 704 x — 13 10 4
CK: Megan Wallace 1K 4BB, Bohlmann (4) 0K 3BB and Ashley Sibenaller. Cr: LaMasters 6K 5BB 3 HBP and Mostek. W — LaMasters. L— Wallace. 3B — CK: Bohlmann 2. 2B — Cr: Andreasen 2, LaMasters 1. RBI — CK: Bohlmann 3, Kendra Peter 1, Hannah Macke 1; Cr: Andreasen 5, Briley 3, LaMasters 1, Palser 1, Brenna Baker 1. Multiple hitters — CK: Bohlmann 3; Cr: Briley 3, LaMasters 2, Andreasen 2.