On a night when they were dressed in camouflage for the “Battle Against Cancer” the Creston Panthers took on that warrior mentality to dig out of a big hole against Class 3A fifth-ranked Glenwood here Thursday night.
Creston fell behind 8-0 on a three-run triple by Glenwood’s No. 9 batter, Sam Jameson, to key a five-run third inning.
But instead of the game ending early by the 10-run rule, the Rams were scrambling to hold on to a victory of any kind as Creston chipped away to the point that the tying run was on deck with with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
But Creston, now 7-8 overall and 5-5 in Hawkeye 10 play, couldn’t string together enough run-scoring hits down the stretch to overcome earlier mistakes, and fell 11-6. Glenwood improved to 6-0 as the conference leader and 11-1 overall.
Creston trailed 10-2 entering the bottom of the sixth. The Panthers went on a four-run tear in their final two at-bats while the Rams had only one additional tally.
“That’s a tribute to Creston,” said Glenwood coach Brett Elam. “They are a good team and they are never going to just roll over and die for you. I told the guys when we got up 8-0, do not put it on cruise control, because they aren’t going to care what the score is. They are going to keep having good at-bats. I’ll bet you they outhit us!”
10 Panther hits
Elam was correct. Creston had 10 base hits to Glenwood’s nine, topped by shortstop Briar Evans going 3-for-4. Cole Crawford had two hits.
Both teams had four costly errors, including three in the sixth inning by the Rams to open the door for a Panther comeback.
Creston had one error in Glenwood’s three-run second inning and two more miscues in the five-run third.
“We need to minimize the damage and make the defensive plays in situations like that,” coach Steve Birchard said. “But I thought we were battling. We just didn’t have the timely hits.”
Eighth-grader Kadon Hulett saved a worn pitching staff by hurling the final three innings in respectable fashion, allowing three runs on three hits with a strikeout and three walks against a veteran state-ranked lineup.
Starter Brandon Phipps went two innings, then Evans lasted only one batter because of a sore arm, and a tired Crawford got through two innings after pulling duty the two previous days against Kuemper and Shenandoah.
“We were able to get two out of Brandon but he’s nursing some things right now,” Birchard said. “His wrist, his hip flexor. With Crawford, we couldn’t go any longer than we did, and Briar said on his third pitch he felt something and his arm hurt. Kadon, he comes in a does a nice job, especially when you let him start an inning and not come in a tough situation with the bases loaded, like we did to him at Harlan. He just relaxes and throws the ball.”
Elam said Birchard has a good prospect on his team in the younger brother of senior first baseman Keaton Hulett.
“Hulett is a nice pitcher already for an eighth-grader,” Elam said. “That’s a good thing for coach Birchard, to have him around four more years.”
Elam is facing many of the same pitching staff woes as Birchard. His two aces — senior Alex Forbes and junior Corey Bertini — have barely appeared on the mound this season. However, Bertini did atone for three errors in the sixth by making a strong relay throw to get Creston’s Nate Haley at the plate trying to score on Trevor Luther’s RBI double.
That leaves senior lefthander Tyler Jensen as the healthy Ram ace, and he got through five solid innings Thursday in allowing two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks.
“That’s probably more walks than Tyler has had all year,” Elam said. “He was already at 99 pitches after five, and we don’t need anybody else to break down.”
Reliever Wyatt Schulz had just enough to finish it out, giving up four runs on four this with two strikeouts and a walk.
“And we still have two games left this week at the AL tournament Saturday,” Elam said. “We may have some guys pitching in their first varsity game. But that’s alright.”
Birchard said the rest is needed for his team, which doesn’t play until traveling to Shenandoah on Monday. That’s followed by a varsity doubleheader at Denison Tuesday before a non-conference game at Osceola Clarke on Friday.
“We should be ready to go next week,” Birchard said.
There was a lot of good will during a special pregame ceremony Thursday, as the team designated it “Battle Against Cancer” night on the eve of the Relay for Life event at Panther Field.
The Panthers wore special camouflage uniforms, obtained through fund-raising efforts including the sale of team posters. Also, 13-year-old Evan Taylor, brother of left fielder Garret Taylor and a cancer survivor, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his brother at home plate.
Evan Taylor was diagnosed in February 2012 with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the muscle tissue around the eye orbit. He still has follow-up treatments, but has been declared cancer-free.
Luminaries were also sold for tonight’s 10 p.m. ceremony at the Creston track during Relay for Life.
Creston had a 1-0 lead through three innings of the JV game, but Glenwood rallied with four runs in the fourth inning on the way to a 5-3 victory over the Panthers.
Sophomore Dru Little pitched a three-hitter for the Rams with one strikeout and two walks. Cody Crawford took the loss, pitching a shutout until the fourth inning. He gave up four runs on five hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Brandon Lee finished in the fifth with one run allowed on two hits and no walks or strikeouts.
Kadon Hulett doubled for the Panthers, now 4-5. Lee and Crawford each had a hit and RBI.
Creston plays at Shenandoah Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Glenwood 11, Creston 6
R H E
Greenwood 035 002 1 — 11 9 4
Creston 001 103 1 — 6 10 4
G: Tyler Jensen 3K 4BB, Wyatt Schulz (6) 2K 1BB and Brady Wheeler. Cr: Brandon Phipps 0K 1BB, Briar Evans (3) 0K 1BB, Cole Crawford (3) 2K 1BB, Kadon Hulett (5) 1K 3BB and Zach Powers. W — Jensen. L— Phipps. 3B — G: Same Jameson. 2B — G: Cob Baker 1, Conner Lewis 1; Cr: Keaton Hulett 1, Trevor Luther 1. RBI — G: Jameson 3, Baker 2, Lewis 1, Mitch Bowden 1, Corey Bertini 1; Cr: Powers 1, Evans 1, Luther 1. Multiple hitters — G: Jensen 2; Cr: Evans 3, Crawford 2.