Creston went 1-2 in the 2021 John Stephens Classic, but there was much more to the event than a series of weekend games on the Creston Community High School and Southwestern Community College softball fields.
When Creston lost to Bondurant-Farrar, 8-2, on Friday morning in the first of 19 games over two days, a new tradition was launched as the announced player of the game for each team — B-F’s Lauren Osborn and Creston first baseman Halle Evans — received a commemorative T-shirt in honor of the late Ron “Fox” Clinton. They were pictured holding those first award shirts with Ruth Clinton, wife of the former Creston and Southwestern Community College coach.
Current head coach Mike McCabe, who assisted Clinton for 231 victories from 1993 to 2002 before becoming head coach in 2003, was honored prior to Saturday’s final game for reaching a coaching milestone. McCabe was surprised with a plaque in honor of attaining his 400th victory as a head coach on June 3 at Glenwood.
The current victory total is 404 wins going into today’s (Monday) Hawkeye Ten doubleheader at Carroll Kuemper Catholic. Presenting the plaque along with this year’s team was longtime assistant coach Teri Keeler, who was a player and freshman coach under Clinton before joining McCabe’s staff as assistant coach.
“That was nice. I appreciated that,” McCabe said.
There was also a brief ceremony before that final game to honor members of three outstanding Creston softball teams that recently reached anniversary milestones.
COVID delayed the 10th anniversary observance last year of the 2010 Creston softball team that was 28-4 overall, and a perfect 18-0 in the Hawkeye Ten Conference. Attending for the public introduction Saturday were Carla Smith (now Knoxville’s coach playing in the John Stephens Classic), Maddie Haines and Madison (Frain) Peterson.
Also honored before the final game were members of Creston’s state tournament teams (third in 2015 and seventh in 2016, Class 4A) that went 30-6 and 28-15, respectively. Last year was the fifth anniversary of that third place squad of 2015, with this year being the fifth anniversary of the subsequent state team. Attending Saturday’s ceremony were Sara Keeler, Saige Rice, Natalie Mostek, Chloe Hagle, Alyssa Higgins, Jami Sickels and Taylor Briley.
“We had it planned for last year, and then of course Covid happened,” McCabe said. “It’s good to see the kids who were able to get back. It worked out well and it was good to see those people.”
On the field, Creston (7-9) split two Saturday games after Friday’s loss. (A rain delay caused a revised schedule and no second game Friday for the Panthers.)
McCabe used 18 players in a 15-1 victory over a young Murray team Saturday afternoon at SWCC. Left fielder Caitlin Bruce was designated the player of the game after going 1-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. Eighth grader Jersey Foote was 2-3 with a double and three RBIs for the Panthers. Gracie Hagle drove in two runs and scored twice as a spark at the top of the lineup.
Peyton Rice stole three bases in scoring two runs from the No. 2 position in the lineup, followed by Neveah Randall with a double and two RBIs. Emma Decker was 2-2 with a double for Murray.
Three Creston pitchers — Keely Coen, Haylee Gillam and Taryn Fredrickson allowed four hits combined with four strikeouts and no walks.
“Three kids got a chance to throw and we got a lot of kids into the game with a chance at some at bats,” McCabe said. “I thought Murray had some nice players at the top of their lineup with some pop in their bats.”
Creston closed the event against Class 4A No. 2-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes, which went 3-0 in the classic. The Panthers battled back after a rocky start with three errors in the first three innings leading to early deficits of 5-0 and 8-1.
The Panthers had hits by Gracie Hagle, Rice, Morgan Driskell, Evans, Coen and Sophie Hagle in a three-run rally that closed the gap to 8-4 in the third inning.
Coen had rough luck in her three innings pitched, yielding only one earned run on seven hits and no walks. Fredrickson, an eighth-grader, had a steady thee innings of relief with the only strikeout recorded in the game and two earned runs on five hits and a walk.
Creston finished with 11 hits against two DC-G pitchers, including two each by Sophie Hagle, Evans and Rice.
“We have to figure out a way to shake that (bad start), because that’s has happened several times,” McCabe said. “But there were some things that we need to take away with us from tonight to Kuemper on Monday, such as our energy we showed and bouncing back better from adversity. There are things we can build on.”
Also undefeated in the classic were Class 5A No. 13 Ankeny (2-0), Class 2A No. 6 Earlham (2-0) and Class 1A No. 14 Lenox (2-0). Mount Ayr, ranked eighth in Class 2A, fell in a couple of competitive games against larger schools (Knoxville an Class 3A No. 7 Atlantic). Nodaway Valley and Murray each went 0-2 in action on Saturday.
Scores from the John Stephens Classic and recipients of the Ron “Fox” Clinton Player of the Game commemorative T-shirts follow below.
Bondurant-Farrar 8, Creston 2. POG: Lauren Osborne, B-F; Halle Evans, Creston.
Atlantic 8, Washington 1. POG: Olivia Engler, Atlantic; Kellie Dallmeyer, Washington.
Ankeny 2, Bondurant-Farrar 1. POG: Olivia Baskerville, Ankeny; Riley Gilroy, B-F.
Ankeny 8, Atlantic 3. POG: Madeleine Murphy, Ankeny; Alyssa Derby, Atlantic.
Clarke 8, Nodaway Valley 0. POG: Kaitlyn Halsband, Clarke; Lindsey Davis, NV.
Lenox 11, Clarinda 1. POG: Tyra Stoaks, Lenox; Makayla Fichter, Clarinda.
Atlantic 10, Mount Ayr 2. POG: Mo Woodward, Atlantic; Addy Reynolds, Mount Ayr.
Washington 1, Bondurant-Farrar 0. POG: Riley Fishback, Washington; Chesney Steenhoek, B-F.
Lenox 4, Clarke 0. POG: Caitlyn Maynes, Lenox; Emma Bolton, Clarke.
Clarinda 12, Murray 0. POG: Kristan Smith, Clarinda; Jaden Lynn, Murray.
Bondurant-Farrar 10, Nodaway Valley 0. POG: Kate Lappe, B-F; Whitney Lamb, Nodaway Valley.
Knoxville 4, Mount Ayr 3. POG: Jadyn Streigle, Knoxville; Zoey Larsen, Mount Ayr.
Dallas Center-Grimes 4, Atlantic 0. POG: Hannah Rouschenberg, DC-G; Jada Jensen, Atlantic.
Creston 15, Murray 1. POG: Caitlin Bruce, Creston; Emma Decker, Murray.
Earlham 4, Knoxville 1. POG: Allison Beatty, Earlham; Ashlyn Finarty, Knoxville.
Washington 12, Central Decatur 3. POG: Kellie Dallmeyer, Washington; Eily Hall, Central Decatur.
Dallas Center-Grimes 6, Knoxville 4. POG: Elle Nelson, DC-G; Hannah Dublin, Knoxville.
Earlham 20, Central Decatur 7. POG: Alexis Voss, Earlham; Hallee Hamilton, Central Decatur.
Dallas Center-Grimes 11, Creston 5. POG: Claire Geiman, DC-G; Sophie Hagle, Creston.