Zach Powers remembers what it was like to be at the Creston High School baseball games as a youngster.
“I remember looking up to all of the high school players when I was that age, and wanted to be someone they could look up to, too,” the senior catcher said Tuesday night after a home doubleheader against Atlantic.
Powers did well in getting the youngsters to look up to him on Little League Recognition Night at Panther Field, delivering walk-off RBI doubles in both games to cap the 9-8 and 6-5 victories.
Powers homered for the second consecutive game, smashing a two-run shot over the left field fence in the opener, after also powering one at home Friday against Clarke. For the night, Powers was 5-for-8 with two doubles, a homer and five runs batted in.
But he wasn’t alone in delivering timely hits in both come-from-behind victories. In game one, Creston pitchers issued seven walks in the first three innings and also hit three batters in the game in falling behind, 5-2.
Junior lefthander Cole Crawford stabilized things on the mound, pitching in relief of Nate Haley, and picked up the win with no walks after a free pass against his first batter in the third inning.
Brandon Phipps hit a two-run double to tie the game 5-5 in the fifth. After Atlantic again went in front, 7-5, Powers tied it with a two-run homer to left in the sixth. Keaton Hulett’s RBI single made it 8-7.
Atlantic tied it in the top of the seventh, but the Panthers responded in the bottom half. Garret Taylor led off with a walk, and Colton Bolinger was brought in as a pinch-runner at first.
After a strikeout and flyout, Powers hit his double in the gap, with Bolinger beating the relay throw home. Keaton Hulett and Trevor Luther each had three hits in the opener as the Panthers outhit the Trojans, 14-6. Phipps, Briar Evans, Powers and Crawford all stroked doubles.
Game two looked even more bleak for the Panthers. Atlantic senior Chad Christensen, headed to NIACC to play baseball next year, was cruising along with a two-hit shutout as the Trojans led 4-0 in the top of the fifth inning.
The Panthers started to chip away at Christensen in the fifth. Eighth-grader Chase Shiltz, catching the second game as Powers switched to designated hitter, beat out an infield single before a Trojan error.
Powers then lined an RBI single, and Evans bombed a sacrifice fly nearly to the left field fence to close it to 4-2.
Atlantic got another run in the sixth for a 5-2 lead before the Panthers pulled off another dramatic comeback.
Atlantic needed only two more outs to finish off the 5-2 win, with one runner on base.
Hulett singled, and Nate Haley clubbed a two-run double to left to close it to 5-4. Luther then singled in pinch-runner Cody Crawford to tie it, 5-5, sending the game into extra innings.
A key defensive play shut down the Trojan offense in the top of the eighth. A courtesy runner for Christensen at second tried to advance to third when a pickoff throw squirted away from second baseman Brody Frain.
Shortstop Briar Evans quickly scooped the ball up and fired to Phipps at third for the tag to end the inning. Earlier in the game, Frain completed a double play by stepping on the bag and throwing to Haley at first with two runners on base.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Cole Crawford stroked a double in the gap. Powers hit Christensen’s third pitch into the left-center gap to trigger the second walk-off celebration by the Panthers of the night.
“We’re hitting the ball well,” said Creston coach Steve Birchard. “We said after we got those first two runs, that he (Christensen) is just wild enough, that maybe we can scratch something out and put something together. It was satisfying to see us do that.”
The Panther coach said his team was fortunate to win the opener, after issuing 10 free passes. However, Creston had a 14-6 advantage in hits.
“We just kept battling and scored some runs,” Birchard said. “Crawford got in a little bit of a groove. He bounces back well. I think he could come back and throw a little bit on Thusday. Keaton is done until Monday.”
With nine hits allowed, six walks and eight strikeouts, Hulett powered through a 146-pitch outing.
The sweep was important for district seeding purposes. Creston improved to 8-7 in the Hawkeye 10 and 11-10 overall, while Atlantic — in the same substate grouping — slipped to 5-15 overall and 3-9 in the conference. However, the Trojans had improved after starting out 1-10, going on a 4-3 stretch that included a 5-4 loss last week to state-ranked Harlan.
“Yeah, this is a big sweep for us,” Birchard said. “All those doubleheaders we lost — Kuemper, Harlan and Denison — we wanted to get one, at least.”
The Panthers play at Clarinda Thursday before hosting Council Bluffs St. Albert in a non-conference JV-varsity affair Saturday, with JV starting at 4 p.m.
Creston 9, Atlantic 8
R H E
Atlantic 203 002 1 — 8 6 1
Creston 200 123 1 — 9 14 2
A: Ryan Hawkins 3K 3BB and Brendan Holmes. Cr: Nate Haley 0K 6BB 1 HBP, Cole Crawford (3) 2K 1BB 2 HBP and Zach Powers. W — Crawford. L— Hawkins. HR — Cr: Powers. 2B — Cr: Crawford, Powers, Briar Evans, Brandon Phipps. RBI — A: Logan Steffens 2, Tyler Thomas 1; Cr: Powers 3, Keaton Hulett 3, Phipps 2, Crawford 1. Multiple hitters — A: Steffens 2; Cr: Hulett 3, Trevor Luther 3, Evans 2, Powers 2, Crawford 2.
Creston 6, Atlantic 5
R H E
Atlantic 110 111 00 — 5 8 2
Creston 000 020 31 — 6 10 1
A: Chad Christensen 7K 3BB and Brendan Holmes. Cr: Keaton Hulett 8K 6BB and Chase Shiltz. W — Hulett. L— Christensen. HR — A: Christensen. 2B — A: Christensen, Tristen Benn; Cr: Crawford, Powers, Haley. RBI — A: Christensen 1, Holmes 1; Cr: Haley 2, Powers 2. Multiple hitters — none.