Creston’s varsity softball doubleheader with Harlan here Thursday got out to a promising start, but Harlan finished the night with a sweep of the Panthers.
Harlan scored Hawkeye 10 Conference wins over Creston of 5-3 and 15-3.
“We’ve got to get better. It’s that simple,” Creston head coach Mike McCabe said. “We have to get a little tougher. Like I told them, whether it’s 15-3 or 5-3, it’s a loss. Just a little bit harder on your ego. That’s supposed to toughen you up a little bit. We need to make that choice that we’re going to do that.”
The Cyclones struck first as Ana Peterson went to third on a sacrifice fly by Logan Schaben and scored as the ball squirted past Creston third baseman Lexie Little.
But Little ignited the Panthers in the bottom of the second inning, as she blasted a 1-0 pitch into the cluster of fans seated in lawn chairs in left field for her first career home run, tying the game at 1-1.
After Chloe Hagle and Alyssa Higgins drew back-to-back two-out walks against Schaben, Josie Sickels loaded the bases with a single. Hagle came around to score on a Taylor Briley single to left-center field.
Little started another Panther rally in the bottom of the third inning, hitting a one-out single and then stealing second base. She scored on a Jami Sickels single to center field.
“Boy, the bottom of the order really swung the bat nice in that first game,” McCabe said. “Got a little contagious down there. Jami had a couple of hits. It was good to see.”
Creston’s 3-1 lead held up until the top of the fifth inning, when the Cyclones plated four runs — three of which came on a Schaben home run to left field.
“She hits a big home run in the fifth inning,” McCabe said. “We were trying to pitch her outside and unintentionally intentionally walk her. Didn’t get it done.”
McCabe said that game one loss was a tough pill to swallow, with Creston pitcher Haylee LaMasters pitching well enough to win the game, just making one costly mistake.
Five Panther errors proved to be costly in the loss.
“That first game, that game was there for us,” McCabe said. “I thought she (LaMasters) pitched well. You’re just not going to win games, close games, giving up five errors.”
The Panther defense struggled again in the second game of the twinbill, committing four errors.
That, combined with eight walks, gave the Cyclones too many free bases.
LaMasters started the second game, but was pulled after 2 1/3 innings, having walked seven and giving up nine runs on just two hits.
Harlan sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs on six hits in the third inning.
“It’s a situation you don’t like ever going through,” McCabe said. “Kind of a humbling thing, just a little hard on your ego. She wanted to give it a try in the second game and see how it went. Probably me not pulling the plug soon enough again.”
Briley relieved LaMasters and gave up six hits, walking one and striking out two, as Harlan tagged her for six more runs.
LaMasters recorded a pair of hits, including a double, and drove in two runs in the nightcap.
The two losses came as a bit of a letdown after Creston picked up a big road win at Glenwood earlier in the week.
“I guess I thought that’d bring a little bit of confidence,” McCabe said. “That goes to my point we have to get a little bit tougher when the going gets tough. Fortunately, we have time to figure that out.”
Creston drops to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference. Harlan improved to 6-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
McCabe pointed out his team has played five conference games already against three of the teams projected to be at the top of the conference standings.
“Those are done and past,” he said. “We’ve got to move on. It’s a 20-game season, as the conference isn’t decided in five games. But, that doesn’t take the sting away from it. You’d certainly like to protect your home field.”
The Panthers travel to the Atlantic Tournament on Saturday. Creston will play Audubon and Exira/EHK, with a third game against a team to be determined coming from another pool.
Creston opens at 11:45 a.m. against Audubon.
Harlan 5, Creston 3
R H E
Harlan 100 040 0 — 5 7 1
Creston 021 000 0 — 3 9 5
Logan Schaben 4BB 5K and Julia Sorfonden. Haylee LaMasters 1BB 6K and Natalie Mostek. W — Schaben. L— LaMasters. HR — Har: Schaben 1. Cr: Lexie Little 1. 3B — none. 2B — Har: Ana Peterson 1. RBI — Har: Schaben 3. Cr: Little 1, Taylor Briley 1, Jami Sickels 1. Multiple hitters — Har: Ashlee Kolbe 2. Cr: Josie Sickels 2, Briley 2, Little 2, Jami Sickels 2.
Harlan 15, Creston 3
R H E
Harlan 0311 1 — 15 8 1
Creston 102 0 — 3 4 4
Kassie Craig 2BB 0K, Logan Schaben (3) 0BB 1K and Julia Sorfonden. Haylee LaMasters 7BB 1K, Taylor Briley (3) 1BB 2K and Natalie Mostek. W — Craig. L— LaMasters. HR — Har: Ashlee Kolbe 1, Schaben 1. 3B — none. 2B — Har: Schaben 1, Craig 1. Cr: LaMasters 1. RBI — Har: Schaben 3, Ana Peterson 2, Craig 2, Kolbe 2, Sorfonden 1. Cr: LaMasters 2, Mostek 1. Multiple hitters — Har: Schaben 2, Kolbe 2. Cr: LaMasters 2.