August 04, 2021

No. 9 Boone sinks Panthers, 8-1

Three-error inning costly for Panthers in district opener

BOONE — Creston’s Britain Miller opened the game with a double down the right field line, and scored on Kyle Strider’s single to center.

That early flurry would be the extent of the Panther offense against Class 3A ninth-ranked Boone Friday night in Class 3A Substate 7 opening round play at Memorial Stadium. Boone (21-9) advanced with an 8-1 victory and takes on Dallas Center-Grimes (18-16) at home tonight (Monday) in substate semifinal action.

The Panthers ended their season at 8-21, again plagued by one poor inning that inflated an otherwise competitive matchup Saturday. Creston starter Gavin Shawler and Boone ace Morgan Smith were locked in a 1-1 pitching duel until the Toreadores crossed the plate five times in the bottom of the third on two hits and three Panther errors. Creston had four fielding miscues in the first three innings.

Boone’s Martin Smith hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning for the final 8-1 margin.

“All year we felt that if we could just stay away from that one inning like that, we’ve been in so many baseball games,” Creston interim coach Jaden Driskell said. “If we could have found a way to get out of that inning and kept it to a 2-1 or 3-1 game, then it’s a different situation. It’s tough to get down by seven runs against a good team like that. At the end of the day we didn’t make enough plays and you tip your cap to their first kid on the mound. He threw really well.”

Smith got the win with eight strikeouts and no walks while allowing just three hits in five innings. Gage Skarda’s fifth-inning single was the only Panther hit after the first inning.

Shawler allowed only two earned runs in three innings on the mound for Creston. Daniel Merritt struck out three and allowed two hits in three innings of relief. He was also charged with two earned runs.

Driskell ended his stint filling in for head coach Steve Birchard, whose retirement took effect on July 1. Brandon Phipps assisted Driskell. As both were former Creston players under Birchard, the transition seemed smooth the past two weeks, Driskell said.

“It was one of the weirdest situations I’d ever heard of, but the nice thing was we knew back when coach Birchard said he was going to retire, that it would be me for the last couple of weeks, or more. We knew how to plan for it. All my baseball coaching stuff comes from coach Birchard. We know how it works. It was a smooth transition and I can’t thank the guys enough.”

Driskell had praise for the seven departing seniors in the postgame huddle, noting their leadership made the coaching situation easier to handle for everyone.

“Those seven seniors, I owe them more than they’ll probably ever know for the way they’ve handled everything,” Driskell said.

Those seniors are Cole Strider, Evan Bruce, Ethan Freeman, Keagan Smith, Merritt, Miller and Shawler.

LARRY PETERSON

Former senior feature writer at Creston News Advertiser and columnist. Previous positions include sports editor for many years and assistant editor. Also a middle school basketball coach in Creston.