Creston baseball coach Steve Birchard hopes one trend from Class 3A District 16 comes to a halt tonight.
In Friday’s district semifinal games, both winners avenged two regular-season losses to post upset victories as Creston topped Atlantic 4-2 and Denison-Schleswig edged top-seeded Glenwood, 2-1. The Rams had swept the Monarchs during the season, 7-4 and 15-8.
Birchard’s concern is based on his team’s wins of 7-6 and 7-4 over Denison-Schleswig on June 15 and 16, after the second game was rained out on the night of the scheduled doubleheader.
“That’s what kind of scares me,” Birchard said after his team avenged losses of 5-4 and 16-0 to Atlantic on Friday. “I hope the trend of not being able to beat a team the third time doesn’t continue. We know we’re capable of doing this.”
The Panthers are seeking a district championship tonight at Glenwood against a hot Denison-Schleswig team that has won seven of its last eight games. The Monarchs have improved to 16-20 after starting the year 9-19.
“We’ve been playing awfully well,” Denison-Schleswig coach Don Lyons told KMA broadcaster Bryan Clark after Friday’s upset victory over the Rams. “We went to eastern Iowa and beat two teams with 20 wins. We came back a confident ball club.”
Headlining Friday’s victory was senior pitcher Sam Weber, who improved to 6-0 on the season with five hits allowed, three strikeouts and one walk. The hard-luck loser was Glenwood’s AJ Slaughter, who no-hit the Monarchs for the first five innings while chalking up nine strikeouts.
The Monarchs broke through in the sixth. Jaden Langenfeld walked with one out and was on the move on a 3-2 pitch to Jackson Marten. As Glenwood second baseman Andrew Holiday moved to cover second, Marten poked a single to the right side where Holiday had been stationed.
Glenwood right fielder Colton Schutte bobbled the ball and his throw home sailed high to give the Monarchs a 1-0 lead. Jade Magnuson then singled in Marten for the team’s second hit and second run.
The Rams were able to break through with a run in the seventh, but a costly out occurred at second base on a controversial play.
Leadoff batter Mavrick Decker came up with Eli Bales and Holiday on base after singles, with one out. During the at-bat, a pitch skipped away from Monarchs catcher Ben Pardun. Pinch-runner Josh Ruth broke for third and made it safely.
At second, Cooper Silvius was originally called out, then safe when the base umpire thought the ball hit the ground just after the tag. After both umpires met, they ruled the ball didn’t hit the ground and called Silvius out. Ruth scored on a wild pitch and Decker eventually worked a walk, but Ethan Fisher fouled out to end the game with the trying run on base.
“Tonight we found the right time to bunch some runs in one inning and it stood up as Sam Weber went out and competed and the guys made some plays,” Lyons said.
Both aces out
Neither Creston nor Denison-Schleswig will have its ace pitcher on the mound tonight, as Creston’s Kadon Hulett and Weber pitched six and seven innings, respectively, on Friday. Their pitch counts require three days rest.
In the two previous games against Denison-Schleswig, junior Drew Polzin and senior Conner Paulsen were the Monarchs’ starting pitchers. Sophomore Jaden Petersen pitched 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief of Polzin in the opener after Polzin allowed two runs in the first two innings. Petersen had one strikeout and four hits allowed during that stint.
In the second game, Paulsen pitched three innings as the Panthers held a 5-3 lead on the way to a 7-6 victory. Sophomore Dawson Dorhout took the loss, yielding two runs on one strikeout and three walks along with two hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Creston starters in those games were seniors Cody Crawford and Hulett.
Junior Dustin Merritt got the win in the first game with one earned run and three hits allowed in 2 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two. The Monarchs had nine hits against Crawford in 4 1/3 innings.
Hulett got the win in the second game with freshman Jack Frey pitching 2 2/3 innings of relief, with no earned runs allowed.
As of Saturday, Birchard was not sure who would get the starting nod tonight, but noted that Denison-Schleswig batters had not faced senior Brenden McDowell yet.
“We know we’ve seen all of their next four after Weber,” Birchard said. “I haven’t decided what I’m going to do, but they haven’t seen McDowell or (Beau) Barncastle. It probably comes down to who’s having a good day, because everybody but Hulett is available.”
McDowell is 2-4 with a 4.72 earned run average. In 29 2/3 innings he has allowed 41 hits with 13 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Barncastle is 1-3 with a 7.45 ERA. In 20 2/3 innings he has yielded 24 hits with 15 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Crawford is 3-3 with a 7.14 ERA. In 33 1/3 innings he has given up 54 hits with 16 strikeouts and 29 walks.
For Denison-Schleswig, Weber has six of the team’s 16 wins. Records for the four possible pitchers tonight are Paulson (3-3, 2.72 ERA), Petersen (1-4, 3.17 ERA), Dorhout (4-4, 4.32 ERA) and Polzin (2-3, 4.63 ERA).
As a pitching staff, Denison-Schleswig has a team ERA of 3.84 and 139 strikeouts in 226 innings with 278 hits allowed. As a team, the Monarchs are batting .283.
Creston’s staff has a 5.32 ERA with 139 strikeouts and 259 hits allowed in 210 innings. The Panthers are batting .271.
Tonight’s winner will face either second-ranked and Hawkeye 10 champion Harlan or Greene County at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Harlan. On Friday, Greene County downed ADM 7-4 for its first postseason win since 2013. Harlan improved to 32-2 with a 10-0 victory in five innings over Carroll.