Lewis Central slipped a half-game in front of Council Bluffs St. Albert for second place in the Hawkeye 10 Conference with a sweep of Creston here Thursday night, 9-5 and 11-3.
The Titans stand 15-4 in Hawkeye 10 play and 24-7 overall, with St. Albert 15-5. Glenwood, which has a makeup game with Lewis Central Monday, is 13-6 in the league in fourth place.
Harlan has already secured the conference title at 17-3. Others ahead of Creston are Denison-Schleswig (13-7) and Atlantic (11-9). Creston could have caught Atlantic with a sweep of the Titans, but fell to 9-11 in the league and 11-14 overall with the two losses.
Finishing league play in seventh place was a story of near-misses, with seven one-run defeats.
Even Thursday, against the second-place Titans, the scores were misleading in the fact that Lewis Central garnered seven of its 11 runs and five of its nine hits in the fifth inning alone. That outburst broke open a 1-1 game in which senior Brandon Phipps was in a well-played pitching duel with LC junior Luke Sutherland up to that point.
“It got to be 3-1, and then the grand slam and another home run right after,” Creston coach Steve Birchard said. “All of a sudden it looks like we’re getting blown out.”
Titan catcher Austin Simmons hit his second home run of the night with the bases loaded in the fifth, right after Caleb Shudak’s two-run single had made it 3-1. Sutherland, the very next batter, then crashed a solo shot to left field to make it 8-1.
Cole Crawford relieved Phipps in the sixth and he was touched for three more runs.
“They’ve seen more of the upper end pitching,” Birchard said. “They play our conference, but they still play the bigger Sioux City schools and Council Bluffs schools as well.”
The first game was shaping up as a good pitching matchup between Shudak and Creston freshman Chase Shiltz. Shudak retired the Panthers in order through three innings, until Conner Pals led off the fourth with an infield single.
That sparked a comeback from a 7-0 Titan lead that had grown from 3-0 in the top of the fourth.
The Panthers cut it to 7-2 in the fourth and shaved it to 7-5 in the fifth as Pals ripped an RBI single past second base, followed by sacrifice flies by Crawford and Trevor Luther.
Two nice defensive plays helped keep it 7-5 in the sixth as Pals ranged far into left field from his shortstop position to snare a pop fly, and Crawford went deep in center to glove a drive off the bat of No. 3 batter Josh Jones.
Creston got the tying runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, but Shudak got out of it with a called third strike.
Lewis Central scored two big insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Pals reached base on an error to lead off the seventh, but as the throw got away from Jones at first base, it was ruled he’d made an attempt to go to second and then tagged out returning to first.
Birchard argued the call on two counts — that Pals had not made a break for second, nor was he tagged before reaching the base — but to no avail and the would-be rally was quickly extinguished by Shudak with two outs sandwiching a hit by Luther.
Simmons also homored in that game, smashing a two-run shot high in the air aided by a 15 mph southerly wind blowing straight to left field. Simmons was 2-of-4 in the game with three runs scored and two RBI.
Pals had two hits and scored two runs at the top of the Panther order in the opener. Shiltz went the distance on the mound, allowing eight hits with five walks and five strikeouts. Shudak fanned seven in the five-hit victory with three walks.
Sutherland had no walks and no strikeouts in winning the second game for the Titans. He allowed eight hits, including two each by Trey Benson, Crawford and Luther. Shiltz had two RBI and a double for Creston.
Phipps’ statistics weren’t bad — six hits allowed in five innings with four strikeouts and one walk — but three of those hits were damaging in the two home runs and a two-run hit by Shudak in the fifth-inning outburst.
“We were leaving the ball out over the plate too often with two strikes and they were jumping on it,” Birchard said. “You take away that inning and we’re right with them. But, they got some good swings there.”
In other scores Thursday, Denison-Schleswig routed Red Oak 15-6 in a morning game and later edged Roland-Story 6-5; St. Albert topped Des Moines Christian 13-10; Atlantic defeated Shenandoah 10-2; and Kuemper Catholic shut out Perry 5-0.
The Panthers finish the regular season at home Monday and Tuesday against ADM and Chariton, respectively. Birchard said his pitching decisions will all be built around plans for the district tournament, which begins Friday at Atlantic against Winterset.
“We’ll piece it together next week to give guys some innings,” Birchard said. “Shiltz went from 80 to 120 pitches at the end there tonight, so he won’t go early in the week.”
With the Lewis Central vs. Glenwood game still remaining on Monday, this is how the Hawkeye 10 race shapes up: Harlan 17-3 (19-7 overall), Lewis Central 15-4 (24-7), St. Albert Catholic 15-5 (22-6), Glenwood 13-6 (18-9), Denison-Schleswig 13-7 (18-11), Atlantic 11-9 (15-10), Creston 9-11 (11-14), Kuemper Catholic 7-13 (12-19), Shenandoah 5-15 (11-18), Clarinda 4-16 (7-19), Red Oak 0-20 (1-21).
Lewis Central 9, Creston 5
R H E
L. Central 012 400 2 — 9 9 3
Creston 000 230 0 — 5 5 2
LC: Caleb Shudak 7K 3BB and Austin Simmons. Cr: Chase Shiltz 5K 5BB and Kadon Hulett. W — Shudak. L— Shiltz. HR — LC: Simmons. 2B — LC: Josh Jones, Simmons, Jordan Schaeffer. RBI — LC: Shudak 2, Jones 2, Simmons 2, Schaeffer 1; Cr: Conner Pals 1, Cole Crawford 1, Brandon Phipps 1. Multiple hitters — LC: Shudak 3, Simmons 2; Cr: Pals 2.
Lewis Central 11, Creston 3
R H E
L. Central 100 072 1 — 11 9 1
Creston 000 102 0 — 3 8 3
LC: Luke Sutherland 0K 0BB and Austin Simmons. Cr: Brandon Phipps 4K 1BB, Cole Crawford 0K 2BB and Chase Shiltz. W — Sutherland. L— Phipps. HR — LC: Simmons, Sutherland. 2B — Cr: Shiltz. RBI — LC: Simmons 5, Shudak 3, Schaeffer 1; Cr: Shiltz 2, Phipps 1. Multiple hitters — LC: Josh Jones 2, Sutherland 2; Cr: Cole Crawford 2, Trevor Luther 2, Trey Benson 2.