Freshman Chase Shiltz produced Creston’s third straight complete game on the mound and a sharp defense played behind him in a 6-1 victory over Atlantic Friday night at Panther Field.
Following the complete games of Cole Crawford and Brandon Phipps in a doubleheader split at Carroll Kuemper Thursday, Shiltz held the 8-1 Trojans in check in an efficient 82-pitch outing. Atlantic managed one run on five hits. Shiltz struck out six, walked just one and hit two batters.
He and freshman catcher Kadon Hulett kept a swift tempo going, which coach Steve Birchard said helped the defense stay on its toes.
“We talked about that after the game,” Birchard said. “Some of our other guys need to take note of the rhythm that Chase gets in. Kadon gets the ball right back to him, and he’s back up there and throwing. He controls the tempo, and he’s around the zone. The guys were on their toes and played great defense.”
Three plays in particular quelled any potential rallies by the Trojans, who came in with wins over Harlan and Glenwood, sitting in second place in the conference at 6-1 behind Denison-Schleswig.
After a leadoff single in the Trojan third inning, Atlantic first baseman Seth Nelson sent a towering shot to left field that looked to have enough distance for a two-run homer, which would have made up most of a 3-0 deficit.
Instead, left fielder Garret Taylor quickly retreated, jumped to reach high for the catch as he fell into the left field fence.
“I knew it was deep, the wind was blowing back, so I just found the fence,” Taylor said. “I saw the ball was coming and kind of gave it a leap. I came down and hit the fence. I think it (the ball) was going to clear the fence.”
The Trojans managed one run that inning as catcher Brenden Holmes got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The damage was minimized by the catch.
Creston was leading 6-1 in the top of the fifth when Travis Petersen drew a walk and eighth-grader Gratt Reed came in as a pinch runner. Leadoff batter Zack Nelson then lofted a flyball to Trevor Luther in right field.
Reed was unable to scramble back to first base before Luther made the catch and threw a strike to first baseman Nathan Haley for a double play.
“Luther has an unreal arm,” said an appreciative Shiltz, who got out of the inning unscathed.
“Before I caught the ball, I could see that the kid was kind of hanging out by second base,” Luther said. “I went to my right and back a little to get it, and tried to get behind the ball so I could get a couple of steps (moving forward) to throw it in. I heard their coach yell ‘back, back, back!’ and Nate was there with his hands up ready to go.”
Moments later, Haley ranged far to his left to catch a foul popup along the fence and retire the Trojans.
Atlantic put two runners on in the sixth, but Hulett threw out a steal attempt at third and shortstop Conner Pals ended the threat by catching a liner.
Shiltz hit a batter in the seventh, but gained two of his three outs on strikeouts as he looked as strong as early in the game.
“Chase is a smart pitcher and he was getting ahead of guys tonight,” Birchard said.
“I just tried getting ahead as much as I could, getting that first strike,” Shiltz said, “then I could start throwing my curveball and changeup more. The defense played really well tonight.”
Creston finished a 3-1 week in Hawkeye 10 play, starting with a 6-1 victory at Shenandoah before the split at Kuemper and win over Atlantic. That leaves the Panthers 4-3 in the league and 5-5 overall heading into an important week, while the Trojans fell to 6-2 and 9-3 after splitting a pair of games Saturday in their own tournament.
Current standings — Denison-Schleswig 5-0 (8-1 overall), St. Albert Catholic 6-1 (8-1), Atlantic 6-2 (9-3), Harlan 5-2 (6-3), Creston 4-3 (5-5), Glenwood 4-4 (6-6), Lewis Central 3-3 (7-5), Kuemper Catholic 4-6 (6-10), Shenandoah 2-7 (4-9), Clarinda 1-7 (1-8) and Red Oak 0-5 (1-6).
The Panthers host Red Oak and Glenwood Monday and Tuesday before a key doubleheader Thursday at Denison.
Tuesday’s game is the team’s annual “Battle Against Cancer” leading up to Friday’s Relay for Life at the Panther Field track. Players will wear camouflage uniforms and Relay for Life honorary cancer survivor Emily Clayton will throw out the first pitch. Relay for Life luminaries will be sold at the game.
Cody Crawford hit a walk-off double to score Brenden McDowell with the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning for an 8-7 Creston JV victory.
McDowell was on base three times with hits, including a double, and drove in two runs. Crawford and Brody Frain each doubled with an RBI. Will Gordon also had an RBI for Creston (4-2).
Starting pitcher Trey Benson had four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, but was hampered by five walks and was relieved by Jaden Driskell after yielding five runs total, two earned.
Driskell picked up the win with two runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and only one walk.
“We had some good timely hitting and other than the walks, our pitching was pretty solid,” said Creston JV coach Ben Landers.
Creston 6, Atlantic 1
R H E
Atlantic 001 000 0 — 1 5 3
Creston 303 000 x — 6 5 1
A: Joey Walker 2K 4BB 1 HBP and Brenden Holmes. Cr: Chase Shiltz 6K 1BB 2 HBP and Kadon Hulett. W — Shiltz (2-1). L— Walker. 2B — Cr: Cole Crawford. RBI — A: Brenden Holmes 1; Cr: Brandon Phipps 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Trevor Luther 2.