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Rams strike late for 18-9 victory

Panthers take early lead, squander opportunities

Creston senior Jaden Driskell connects with his second home run of the season in the second inning Tuesday against Glenwood. Driskell also had a single and walked twice in the 18-9 loss to the Rams.
Creston senior Jaden Driskell connects with his second home run of the season in the second inning Tuesday against Glenwood. Driskell also had a single and walked twice in the 18-9 loss to the Rams.

A season sweep of Glenwood got away from the Creston baseball team in a four-hour, nine-inning marathon Tuesday night.

With both starting pitchers not making it out of the first inning, Creston took an early 6-3 lead over the Rams, who had lost to Creston 4-1 in the Hawkeye 10 Conference opener on May 22.

As the offensive battle went into the seventh inning, the Panthers couldn’t hold a 9-8 lead as Ram catcher Cade Van Ness blasted a solo homer into the second row of trees beyond the left field fence.

The game stayed at 9-9 until Glenwood broke through with a nine-run ninth inning on four hits, four walks, two Panther errors, a hit batter and two runs scored on wild pitches. Creston managed two runners in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t score in taking an 18-9 defeat.

The win lifted Glenwood over Creston in the conference standings at 3-5, and 3-8 overall. The Panthers fall to 2-6 in league play and 3-9 overall heading into tonight’s (Wednesday) makeup home game against Red Oak.

Hunter Fry had pitched four innings in relief of Jack Frey and Gavin Shawler as the Rams came to bat in the top of the ninth, trailing 9-8. With the bottom two in the order coming up, Panther coach Steve Birchard decided to wait to bring in closer Dustin Merritt until the top of the order was up, since Merritt has been nursing a sore elbow.

Cade Van Ness, who had earlier smacked a two-run triple, began the seventh with his blast over the left field wall.

Merritt then got the all and battled on even terms with Van Ness on the hill for the Rams in relief, followed by Pierce Harrington, until things unraveled for the Panthers in the ninth.

After the game, Birchard was second-guessing himself on his seventh-inning pitching decision.

“It all started when I didn’t put Dustin in to start with in that inning,” Birchard said. “I just about said let’s go ahead and make the change now, when they went out to start the inning, but I didn’t.”

Still, the Panthers had two golden opportunities to put the game away with their top hitters coming up in key situations in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings when the game was tied 9-9.

In the seventh, No. 2 batter Eli Loudon was hit by a pitch. Beau Barncastle moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. That opened up first base for Glenwood coach Kurt Schultz to order an intentional walk to catcher Jaden Driskell, who had blasted his second home run of the season over the fence in right-center in the second inning.

Van Ness then retired Merritt on strikes on a 3-2 count, walked Bryce Fitzgerald and escaped the jam by fanning first baseman Gavin Gillam.

Again, in the eighth inning, Creston loaded the bases when Loudon’s base hit went over the left fielder’s head with one out. Harrington left the runners stranded by getting Barncastle to pop up to second base and Driskell looked at a third strike on the corner.

“We had opportunities with those guys coming up,” Birchard said. “I knew they would probably walk Driskell there in the seventh, but I was OK with Merritt coming up there. He can hit the fastball. I really thought we were going to get something done in both of those innings. Then the ninth inning was kind of a fiasco with all the walks and errors. You don’t give up nine runs if you just throw strikes.”

Glenwood came in batting just .216 as a team, but finished with 18 runs on 14 hits. At the bottom of the order, Van Ness was 3-for-6 with a triple, homer and four RBIs. Michael Radford ended up 3-6 in the ninth spot with three RBIs.

Michael Scherer was productive at the top of the Panther batting order, going 4-6 with three infield hits. Loudon was 3-5, while Driskell and Merritt each had two hits. Merritt ripped a three-run double down the left field line in the Panthers’ six-run first inning.

But, the demise of the Panther offense proved to be 18 runners left on base in nine innings.

UP NEXT — After today’s (Wednesday) makeup game against Red Oak, the Panthers travel to Denison-Schleswig for a varsity doubleheader Thursday, followed by two more games Saturday at North Polk. The pitching situation is a bit precarious with five hurlers used Tuesday night. Loudon, nursing a bit of a sore elbow after being hit by pitches twice recently on his pitching elbow, is slated to start on the mound against Red Oak.

Junior varsity

The Creston JV improved to 5-3 with a 7-6 win over Glenwood.

Coach Brandon Phipps said the Panthers took advantage of several walks and wild pitches by the Rams. Kolby Hulett provided an RBI double and Evan Bruce drove in a run with a single. Brayton Chesnut and Keagan Smith also had hits.

Daniel Merritt and Bruce combined to pitch the victory. Merritt had four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings and Bruce got the save.

Glenwood 18, Creston 9

R H E

Glen 304 001 109 — 18 14 3

Crest 620 010 000 — 9 12 3

Glen: Michael Radford 1K 3BB 1 HBP, Ethan Fisher (1) 1K 3BB, Eli Bales (3) 2K 1BB, Andrew Holiday (5) 1K 1BB, Cade Van Ness (7) 3K 2BB, Pierce Harrington (8) 3K 0BB and Van Ness, Radford (7), Van Ness (8). Cr: Jack Frey 0K 2BB, Gavin Shawler (1) 1K 1BB, Hunter Fry (3) 0K 4BB, Dustin Merritt (7) 2K 3BB, Luke Latham (9) 0 3BB 1 HBP and Jaden Driskell. W — Harrington (2-2). L— Merritt (0-2). HR — Glen: Van Ness. Cr: Driskell. 3B — Glen: Van Ness. . 2B — Glen: Josh Kunth, Colton Schutte, Radford. Cr: Merritt. RBI — Glen Van Ness 4, Radford 3, Harrington 2, Holiday 2, Eli Bales 1. Cr: Merritt 3, Driskell 2, Michael Scherer 1. Multiple hitters — Glen: Radford 3, Van Ness 3, Bales 3, Knuth 2, Schutte 2. Cr: Scherer 4, Eli Loudon 3, Driskell 2, Merritt 2.

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