The Creston girls saw their fair share of talent over their four-game spread at the annual John Stephens Softball Classic over the course of Friday and Saturday.
The Panthers fell to their first three opponents on the weekend, but closed out the classic with a 6-5 win over Central Decatur, ending on a good note.
In its final game of the classic, it was Creston that struck first with three runs in the second after Sara Keeler singled home two runs in the top of the second to take a quick lead.
Creston was deemed the home team after a flip of a coin based off of the weekend’s rules.
Morgan Driskell added to the Panthers’ lead with a double to left field, plating another run and putting Creston up 4-0.
In the circle Panther pitcher Keely Coen didn’t have any issues in the first inning and got some defensive assistance in the second to keep CD scoreless.
After CD’s Carleigh O’Dell launched a ball out to center, Saige Rice picked it up, hit her cutoff in Gracie Hagle, who turned and fired home to catcher Peyton Rice.
Peyton Rice made a diving tag at the plate to keep the Cardinals off the board and end the inning. It wasn’t the Panther catcher’s only diving tag on the day as she made another clutch play in Creston’s first contest Saturday against Dallas Center-Grimes.
It was Keeler and Peyton Rice at the top of the lineup that each recorded two hits in the Panthers’ final game.
In her four game stretch, Keeler finished 8-for-14 with two doubles and three RBIs.
“Offensively we’ve been OK. The top of the order has been a real key for us in Sara and Peyton,” said Panther head coach Mike McCabe. “Up and down the lineup we’ve got people who can hit the ball.”
Central Decatur responded with three runs in the bottom of the third after Maizee Lindsey slugged a two-run homer to right-center field as the Cardinals cut it to 4-3 after three.
The two teams traded more runs in the fifth as Brielle Baker drove in a run for Creston on a bases loaded walk, but Emily Cornell responded with a two out, two run double to knot the game at 5-5 after five.
In the sixth and final inning due to a 90-minute time limit, Creston opened the sixth with an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of Saige Rice.
The run was good enough for Creston to close out the contest as Macy Adamson came on in relief and got into a little trouble, but ended the contest with a strikeout to seal the deal.
“I was pleased with the fact that Macy was able to come in, kind of got a little hairy there, ... and good for her. She made a good pitch on the outside corner and we were able to get a strikeout,” said McCabe.
Run support not enough
In Creston’s other three contests of the classic, the bats came to play as the Panthers scored nine runs in three games against talented teams.
Earlier Saturday, the red and white fell 8-4 to Dallas Center-Grimes, but put a run across in each of the first four innings.
Gracie Hagle opened the Panther score sheet with an RBI sacrifice fly for the first run. Emma Hanson scored the second run, crossing the plate after a pop fly fell in the Fillies outfield.
In the third inning it was eighth grader Neveah Randall who drove in a run with an RBI single before Keeler continued her hot hitting with an RBI single, plating Driskell after she led off the inning with a triple.
DC-G posted four runs in the top of the fourth, which proved to be the difference after scoring a couple of early runs off the Creston pitching staff.
On Friday, the Panthers opened with an 11-2 loss to Washington before falling 5-3 to Ankeny later in the day.
“All three of those teams were good ball clubs. ... We had a chance,” said McCabe.
Hagle was credited with the lone RBI in the loss to Washington while Hagle and Heylee Shields knocked in a run in the loss to Ankeny.
Finding consistency on defense
The Panthers played some very effective defense at points throughout the John Stephen Softball Classic, drawing the eye of their head coach.
“We had a couple nice plays. ... A couple of nice relays,” said McCabe. “Some errors too, but those are going to happen. We can be better defensively, ... but I was pleased.”
However, there were also moments that McCabe thinks Creston can continue to learn from as the season progresses to help keep opponents runs off the board.
The biggest key for McCabe is knowing Creston will have to make defensive plays to stay in ball games without any overpowering arms in the circle.
“We got a lot better this weekend. ... Certainly we’re not a finished product, but that experience is good for those young kids,” McCabe said.
UP NEXT – Creston (7-6, 2-3 in H10) heads to Red Oak (4-4, 1-1) today (Monday), looking to pick up another win against a Hawkeye 10 opponent.