It wasn’t the tuneup for district play that Creston coach Steve Birchard was looking for when 3-26 Chariton visited Panther Field for the regular-season finale Tuesday night.
Charger starting pitcher Jackson Fisher helped his cause with a towering three-run homer to left in the third inning in a 5-3 victory over the Panthers.
Fisher threw two shutout innings in getting prepared for Friday’s district opener against Carlisle. After reliever Dylan Stites yielded three Panther runs in the middle innings, Tyler Anderson got the save with three shutout innings and just one hit allowed with four strikeouts.
The Panthers managed only four hits in the game and struck out six times, including four called third strikes. One of those came in the seventh with the tying runs on base and two outs.
“That last one didn’t look like a very good pitch, but the previous one to Jaden (Driskell) was close enough,” Creston coach Steve Birchard said. “We can’t let the umpires control the ballgame. We can’t sit here and take close pitches with two strikes. The kid throwing at the end was pretty decent and the first kid had a good arm. We didn’t make hay when they had that second guy in there.”
The Panthers stranded seven baserunners. Driskell, Merritt, Gavin Gillam and Bryce Fitzgerald had one single each as the Panthers had no extra-base hits in the game.
Chariton ninth batter Reid Walters, batting .133 for the season, did some damage with a pair of base hits Tuesday and two runs scored. Fisher finished with four RBIs as he followed his three-run blast with a high sacrifice fly to left in the fifth inning.
The Panthers did feature good defense Tuesday in an errorless performance, including two running catches in the gap by center fielder Michael Scherer.
“Michael has taken a little pride in his defense in getting a jump on the ball and running things down out there,” Birchard said. “Then his last time up when we thought we might get something going with the top of the order, their kid in center made a nice play on his ball.”
Jack Frey gave up three runs on four hits, including Fisher’s homer, as the Panthers’ starting pitcher. Hunter Fry settled things down with only one run and one hit allowed in 2 and 2/3 innings of relief. Dustin Merritt breezed through two perfect innings with three strikeouts as the final Panther hurler of the night.
“Merritt looked really good tonight,” Birchard said. “I think Beau (Barncastle) is ready to go Friday. We’ll have the whole arsenal available. Jaden, (Eli) Loudon and Merritt are all capable of pitching well, too. Hopefully we can go up there and play well. Winterset is a solid team.”
UP NEXT — The Panthers travel to Winterset Friday for a 7 p.m. Class 3A District 16 opener against the Huskies. Winterset (16-9) finishes its season tonight (Wednesday) at Perry. The Huskies defeated Creston 8-0 on July 2.
Creston’s junior varsity finished an 11-5 season with a 6-4 victory over Chariton. Cole Strider got the pitching victory with 2 1/3 innings of solid relief of Gavin Shawler and Evan Bruce.
Bruce, Hunter Fry and Britain Miller had hits for the Panthers, who rallied for the victory in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“Miller scored the tying run and then they made an error on a ball hit to third by Hunter Fry,” Creston coach Brandon Phipps said. “That scored two runs to win it. The guys battled well in the last inning there and Strider did a nice job of finishing it on the mound.”
Chariton 5, Creston 3
R H E
Char 103 010 0 — 5 6 3
Cr 002 100 0 — 3 4 0
Ch: Jackson Fisher 0K 0BB, Dylan Stites (3) 2K 3BB, Tyler Anderson (5) 4K 1BB and Colbie Werts. Cr: Jack Frey 1K 1BB, Hunter Fry (3) 0K 1BB, Dustin Merritt (6) 3K 0BB and Gavin Gillam. W — Fisher (2-3). L— Frey (0-3). HR — Ch: Fisher. 3B — none. 2B — none. RBI — Ch: Fisher 4, Stites 1. Cr: Eli Loudon 1. Multiple hitters — Ch: Reid Walters 2.