Creston got all of the offense early and senior Nate Haley took it from there with a four-hit complete game victory as the Panthers knocked off Class 1A sixth-ranked Martensdale-St. Marys here Monday, 3-1.
Senior Eddy Kraber, one of three veteran starters on the Blue Devil staff, came into the game 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. Juniors Tanner Foster and Spencer Hoyka are 3-2 and 5-0, respectively, for the M-SM team that entered the week at 22-5 overall.
Haley, meanwhile, had pitched only 4 2/3 innings all year. At 1-1, he carried a 16.50 ERA with as many walks (six) as strikeouts.
Yet, it was Haley who got in a rhythm with a good mix of a two-seam fastball and a curveball consistently in the strike zone. He finished with four hits allowed, three strikeouts, three walks and two hit batters in his first complete game of his senior campaign.
“My curveball was on today,” Haley said. “When I can throw a curveball for a strike, it’s going to be a good day. Especially to the good hitters, I’d throw one or two curveballs right away, trying to keep them on their toes. The defense was great today.”
Creston coach Steve Birchard was pleased to get a consistent outing from his senior righthander, with league games on the horizon at Red Oak today and Atlantic on Thursday, leaving the staff fresh. Creston had only one fielding error.
“Nate threw strikes, that’s the big difference for him,” Birchard said. “In the sixth there he went 3-0 and I thought maybe he was losing it, but he got right back after it. The defense played well. Garret (Taylor) does a nice job tracking balls in left field, and Cole Crawford ran down a ball that maybe some center fielders don’t get to.”
All of the game’s scoring took place in the first inning.
After the Blue Devils touched Haley for one run courtesy of a walk and infield single, they were shut out the rest of the night.
Meanwhile, the Panthers bunched three of their five hits in the opening frame to take a 3-1 lead that held.
Crawford reached on an error and Trevor Luther delivered a run-scoring double. Then Haley, who helped his cause with two hits in the game, stroked a hard single to left.
Chase Shiltz got a run home from third with his groundout. Brandon Phipps added some insurance by chasing home courtesy runner Gavin Woods with a base hit to the right side. In all, eight Panthers had plate appearances in the inning against Kraber.
“He’s one of their best pitchers, and it was nice to get on to him early and pick up those runs,” Birchard said. “It was a well-played ballgame.”
Tonight the Panthers (9-9 overall, 7-7 conference) travel to Red Oak, last in the Hawkeye 10 at 0-12, and just 1-13 overall. But, the Tigers held a lead on Creston for much of their first meeting at Panther Field, so Birchard said nothing can be taken for granted as Cole Crawford will take the mound first, with plans for some other primary hurlers to tune up. One of those won’t be Phipps, however, who gets the start Thursday at Atlantic.
“If we haven’t learned our lesson from Clarinda (last-inning defeat), then we deserve to lose,” Birchard said. “We talked about getting out and getting after it tomorrow from the start.”
Also, Thursday’s suspended game against Council Bluffs St. Albert will be made up at 3 p.m. July 7 here, rather than at Red Oak prior to the Falcons’ regularly-scheduled game there. The game will resume in the top of the fifth inning with St. Albert leading 2-1.
Like the varsity contest, the JV game was a well-pitched game on both sides.
Creston eighth-grader Jaden Driskell allowed only three hits, but issued six walks that led to Blue Devil runs in a 5-1 defeat. He also fanned four in five innings.
Creston batters struck out seven times while getting only three hits by Brody Frain, Driskell and Cody Crawford. Crawford had an RBI.
“We got in some trouble with the walks and extra baserunners,” coach Ben Landers said, “but overall he pitched pretty well. Offensively, we just didn’t get enough quality swings.”
Coaching Martensdale-St. Marys was former Blue Devil and Lenox player Ethan Westphal, who recently concluded his Southwestern Community College playing career. Westphal said he hopes to pitch at a four-year college next year.
Creston (7-5) plays at Red Oak today.
Martensdale-St. Marys 1
R H E
MSM 100 000 0 — 1 4 2
Creston 300 000 x — 3 5 1
MSM: Eddy Kraber 6K 2BB 1 HBP and Luke Anctil. Cr: Nate Haley 3K 3BB 2 HBP and Chase Shiltz. W — Haley (2-1). L— Kraber (4-2). 2B — Cr: Trevor Luther, Haley. RBI — Cr: Luther 1, Shiltz 1, Brandon Phipps 1. Multiple hitters — Cr: Haley 2.