HARLAN — The Creston softball team found itself on the wrong end of a controversial call by the umpires in both games of a varsity doubleheader against Harlan here Monday.
The Panthers didn’t respond well to the call in the opener, but battled back after the controversial call in the second game, sending the nightcap into extra innings.
But in the end, Class 4A 15th-ranked Harlan escaped with a doubleheader sweep of the pesky Panthers by scores of 9-3 and 8-7 in eight innings.
“Umpires took a great game and turned it into a fiasco,” head coach Mike McCabe said about the first game.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Creston appeared to have escaped the inning without surrendering a run.
The Panthers threw a runner out at home for the first out of the inning, and with runners on second and third, left fielder Jami Sickels caught a line shot and threw to third base to double up the runner who scampered home at the crack of the bat.
“Jami makes the play and the girl on third took off and came scrambling back,” McCabe said. “We throw her out at the third base and the umpire, only thing I can think of, is he completely lost track of the situation. She’s out, he hesitates and calls her safe.”
What would have been the third out of the inning, now left runners on second and third with just two outs, and Harlan ended up scoring five runs in the inning after the play.
“That was a huge play,” McCabe said. “Rather than 4-3 going to the seventh, it’s 9-3.”
Haylee LaMasters hit a two-run home run and Jami Sickels drove in a run in Creston’s three-run fourth inning in the opener.
A similar situation arose in the nightcap, and again, the Panthers found themselvs on the wrong end of a controversial call.
Harlan scored one in the bottom of the first before things got dicey again in the second inning.
With one out and runners on second and third, Taylor Schaben hit a rocket at LaMasters, who was playing third base with Brenna Baker pitching. LaMasters caught the ball near her shin, retreated to third base and touched the bag to double off the runner at third.
“Wrong,” McCabe said. “He says it short-hopped her, said it bounced. So rather than being out of the inning at 1-0, they go on to score five runs.”
But unlike in the first game, this time Creston rebounded.
The Panthers tacked on one in the top of the fourth inning and added four in the fifth on a two-run single from Taylor Briley, an RBI double from Natalie Mostek and an RBI single from Mackenzie Andreasen, cutting the lead to 6-5.
Harlan scored one more in the sixth inning, but Creston tied it up in the seventh inning on an RBI single from Kiana Stuart and an RBI double by Jami Sickels.
But Minden Brix finally ended the game with a walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Harlan an 8-7 win and the doubleheader sweep.
“All in all, I was real proud of the kids that second game,” McCabe said. “That first game, after that play, I thought we really let that bother us and we didn’t finish that inning really well at all. Kind of had a similar situation in the second game with the line drive Haylee caught. I thought in the second game, rather than get our heads down, we picked it up a little bit and found a way to get back in the game.”
Creston totaled 14 hits in the nightcap against Schaben, one of the top pitchers in the Hawkeye 10 Conference.
“I thought we hit the ball pretty well against arguably the best pitcher in the conference, so I was pleased with that,” McCabe said. “It was a couple of good ballgames. That first one was a lot closer than 9-3 indicates. We had a chance to be in that one at 4-3, and unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.”
Baker pitched all eight innings of the nightcap, walking two and striking out one.
“She signed up to throw three innings and ended up throwing eight,” McCabe said.
Creston finishes fourth in the Hawkeye 10 Conference with a record of 11-7 in conference and now sits at 19-15 overall. Harlan claims the Hawkeye 10 crown with a conference record of 17-1 and is 24-7 overall.
“Proud of the kids ending up fourth in the conference,” McCabe said. “I think we had a lot of young kids find out that the 18-game Hawkeye 10 Conference schedule, you’ve really got to go through it one time to understand it’s a grind. We had a lot of young kids go through it for the first time and we’ll be a lot better for it next year.”
Creston hosts Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln in the regular season finale tonight. Abraham Lincoln enters the game 25-10 with a record of 18-2 in its last 20 games. Junior varsity action starts at 5:30 p.m. with varsity to follow.
Harlan 9, Creston 3
R H E
Creston 000 300 0 — 3 5 2
Harlan 400 050 0 — 9 9 1
Haylee LaMasters 2K 3BB and Natalie Mostek. Taylor Schaben 6K 2BB and Kelsey Croghan. W — Schaben. L— LaMasters. HR — Cr: LaMasters 1. 3B — none. 2B — none. RBI — Cr: LaMasters 2, Jami Sickels 1. Multiple hitters — none.
Harlan 8, Creston 7
R H E
Creston 000 140 20 — 7 14 3
Harlan 160 000 01 — 8 13 4
Brenna Baker 1K 2BB and Natalie Mostek. Taylor Schaben 6K 2BB and Kelsey Croghan. W — Schaben. L— Baker. HR — none. 3B — none. 2B — Cr: Mostek 2, Josie Sickels 1, Taylor Briley 1, Haylee LaMasters 1, Jami Sickels 1. RBI — Briley 2, Mostek 1, Mackenzie Andreasen 1, Kiana Stuart 1, Jami Sickels 1. H: Minden Brix 3, Kelsey Croghan 2, Logan Schaben 1, Ana Peterson 1, Taylor Schaben 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Mostek 3, LaMasters 2, Stuart 2, Brenna Baker 2. H: Brix 3, Peterson 2, Taylor Schaben 2, Allison Bruck 2, Kassie Craig 2.