Cole Crawford pitched a two-hitter Thursday for Creston’s first baseball victory over Harlan since the 2007 substate final win over the Cyclones at Panther Field.
The Panthers were unable to secure the sweep here Thursday, however, as third-ranked Harlan took advantage of two Panther errors in a four-run second inning in the second game. Then, the Cyclones broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh to win, 6-5.
The split leaves Creston at 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Hawkeye 10 play. Harlan is 3-2 and 2-1.
Crawford won the duel with Harlan senior Derek Leinen in the opener, as Trevor Luther drove in three runs on a pair of hits. Conner Pals stroked an RBI double.
Crawford wasn’t overpowering, collecting three strikeouts with a pair of walks and two hit batters, but he yielded only a swinging bunt hit by Leinen that scored a run, and a double by game two pitcher Cale Stork.
“The coaches told me to come out and throw strikes and believe in my defense, and they made the plays,” Crawford said. “I got a lot of groundballs and some popups that Garret Taylor read pretty well.”
Birchard, who was an assistant under Bill Krejci during Creston’s state tournament run in 2007 the last time the Panthers beat Harlan here, said Crawford had a good approach against the state-ranked Cyclones.
“He walked (leadoff batter) Nate Gettys on four pitches and I thought, oh no,” Birchard said. “But then he threw a lot of strikes. He was getting ahead and let the ball be in play.”
Brandon Phipps had trouble getting ahead of hitters early in game two, but settled down and finished with just three walks and seven hits allowed with a pair of strikeouts in a complete game loss.
Junior lefthander Mitchell Kramer got the win in relief of Stork.
“Early on, the pitchers were not sharp and nobody was playing like they wanted to win it,” Birchard said. “Phipps kind of minimized the damage after we had a couple of errors and pitched pretty well. We just didn’t get enough timely hits. These seniors had not beaten Harlan in baseball, so it was nice to get the one. They are good, but we know we can beat them now.”
Pals had a double and single in the second game and DH Chase Shiltz had a pair of hits.
The Panthers sent nine batters to the plate in the third inning to close it to 5-4 and end Stork’s night on the mound. Third baseman Nate Haley started a double play by snagging a liner to end Harlan’s fourth, and the Panthers tied it when his groundout scored Pals, who had poked a curveball to right field for a double.
Harlan broke the 5-5 deadlock in the seventh when Dillon Sears led off with a triple and Brett Croghan hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Chase Shiltz led off Creston’s seventh with a single, but he was erased on a double play grounder and Kramer got the final out on a popup.
The Panthers play at Shenandoah on Monday before hosting Southeast Polk on Wednesday in a game honoring five straight conference champion teams from 1989 through 1993, coached by Vic Belger. A player on many of those teams, Scott Belger, coaches Southeast Polk. Vic Belger will throw out the first pitch.
Creston 5, Harlan 2
R H E
Harlan 100 100 0 — 2 2 0
Creston 140 000 x — 5 6 2
H: Derek Leinen 3K 1BB, Joshua Cheek (2) 2K 0BB 1 HBP and Nicholas Tarney. Cr: Cole Crawford 3K 2BB 2 HBP and Chase Shiltz. W — Crawford. L— Leinen. 2B — H: Cale Stork; Cr: Conner Pals. RBI — H: Brett Croghan 1, Leinen 1; Cr: Trevor Luther 3, Pals 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Luther 2, Kadon Hulett 2.
Harlan 6, Creston 5
R H E
Harlan 041 000 1 — 6 7 2
Creston 013 100 0 — 5 6 4
H: Cale Stork 5K 3BB 2HBP, Mitchell Kramer (4) 2K 3BB and Tarney. Cr: Brandon Phipps 2K 3BB and Kadon Hulett. W — Kramer. L— Phipps. 3B — H: Dillon Sears. 2B — Cr: Pals. RBI — H: Croghan 1, Kramer 1, Cheek 1; Cr: Garret Taylor 2, Phipps 1. Multiple hitters — H: Sears 2; Cr: Pals 2, Shiltz 2.