The Creston baseball team averted a potential disastrous start to an important week in the conference here Monday night.
Red Oak, coming to Panther Field at 0-5 in the Hawkeye 10 and 1-6 overall, took a 5-1 lead in the third inning as Panther starting pitcher Kadon Hulett struggled with control.
Hulett had given the Panthers a 1-0 lead with a towering solo home run to left field aided by a southerly wind gusting from 30 mph to a peak of 43 mph during the early innings, straight to left field.
Hulett struck out four in 2 1/3 innings, but also walked five and hit three batters. He yielded to senior Trevor Luther, who promptly saw one run score on a passed ball and another on a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-1.
But Luther helped his cause with an RBI single up the middle to score Cole Crawford, who had reached on an error.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth and the score still 5-2 in favor of Red Oak, Trey Benson and eighth-grade catcher Jaden Driskell sparked a rally of five straight hits that ended with a 7-5 Panther lead.
Conner Pals had an RBI single up the middle, Crawford stroked a two-run double to right, Luther had a run-scoring hit and he scored on a wild pitch.
Hulett’s RBI groundout in the fifth and a run by courtesy runner Brody Frain on a dropped popup hit by Nate Haley in the sixth gave the Panthers the 9-5 cushion for Luther, who was rolling in a solid rhythm at that point.
After a leadoff single in the fourth, 12 straight Red Oak batters were retired by the senior righthander, including eight by strikeouts. He finished with 10 strikeouts, two walks, one hit allowed and no runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Luther, the team’s regular right fielder, said he gained confidence as the game went along.
“When I came in I wasn’t getting the outside (strike) calls,” he said. “So I started throwing inside more. I threw three curveballs to the number three hitter, but otherwise it was mostly two-seam and four-seam fastballs. I was trying to get a rhythm like Chase (Shiltz) did the other night. We got the bats going. That’s what we needed.”
Creston coach Steve Birchard showed some patience with Luther after he walked two of the first four batters he faced, forcing in a run. It paid off.
“I was proud of him,” Birchard said. “He came in a tough spot for us. I was ready to pull the trigger on him, too, but I let him go a little bit and I’m glad I did. He is really just getting his confidence. You have to get up there (on the mound) to develop that. He got in a groove.”
Birchard said the 5-1 deficit was precarious, but he thought his team’s hitting would come around eventually against Red Oak pitcher Hayden Berry. He said Benson and Driskell starting the two-out rally in the fourth was significant.
“For the eight and nine guys to come up and get back-to-back hits, that’s big,” Birchard said. “Because that got us to the top of the order, and now that we had guys coming up for the third time against him, I thought we’d get some good swings. And we did. I was hoping our bats would come around.”
Luther finished 3-of-3 at the plate with a double, two runs scored and two RBI. Crawford also had two runs and two RBI with a double. Hulett ended with two RBI.
Creston improved to 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the Hawkeye 10 with another home game tonight against Glenwood. Brandon Phipps gets the starting assignment against the Rams, with Crawford and Chase Shiltz slated for Thursday’s doubleheader at Denison.
Tonight will be the Panthers’ “Battle Against Cancer” game with players in camouflage uniforms. Luminarias will be sold for a suggested donation of $5. Donors may put their loved ones’ names of those who are fighting, have lost the fight or have won the fight, and decorate them. These luminarias will be at the Relay for Life event Friday night at Panther Field and will be displayed with a candle lit during the luminaria ceremony.
Cancer survivor Emily Edwards will throw out the first pitch.
Other Hawkeye 10 scores Monday night were: Lewis Central 7, Atlantic 6; Harlan 6, Council Bluffs St. Albert Catholic 3; Shenandoah 4, Clarinda 3; and Kuemper Catholic 9, Denison-Schleswig 7.
Creston scored six runs in the second inning to establish control and hold off Red Oak Monday, 8-5.
The Tigers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning before the Panthers struck for six runs on four hits in the second. Red Oak scored four runs — two earned — in the final two innings to close it to a three-run margin.
“The walks hurt us, and sometimes lack of defensive awareness cost us, but our hitters adjusted to their pitching and did a good job,” said Creston coach Ben Landers.
Other than issuing seven bases on balls, Brenden McDowell had a good outing on the mound. In four innings he struck out six, allowed just one hit and hit three batters. He also hit one of the team’s three doubles.
Deaven Reese had a double and RBI, Cody Crawford hit a double and Brody Frain knocked in two runs. Dalton O’Riley also had an RBI for Creston (5-3).
Creston 9, Red Oak 5
R H E
Red Oak 005 000 0 — 5 3 3
Creston 011 511 x — 9 10 0
RO: Hayden Berry 5K 2BB and Collin Bruce. Cr: Kadon Hulett 4K 5BB 3 HBP, Trevor Luther (3) 10K 2BB and Jaden Driskell. W — Luther. L— Berry. HR — Cr: Hulett. 2B — Cr: Cole Crawford, Luther. RBI — RO: Berry 1, Brock Isaacson 1, Jesse Taylor 1, Murphy Porter 1; Cr: Hulett 2, Luther 2, Crawford 2, Conner Pals 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Luther 3.