June 16, 2024

Panthers rally late in Classic

Creston tops ranked Earlham in 9 innings

Creston on-deck batter Avery Staver (23) celebrates the winning run scored by teammate Sasha Wurster (12) on Ava Adamson's double in the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory over Earlham in the John Stephens Classic.

It wasn’t looking good for the host Creston softball team in the annual John Stephens Classic late Saturday evening.

Facing a gauntlet of four ranked teams in their own event, Creston had managed a total of two runs in three previous weekend losses to Winterset (Class 4A No. 6), Bondurant-Farrar (Class 4A No. 13) and Dallas Center-Grimes (Class 4A No. 7).

Now the Panthers were trailing Class 1A eighth-ranked Earlham 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning in their fourth game of the weekend.

It all changed at 8:45 p.m., as the sun was setting over Panther Field in the final game of the event’s 18-game schedule.

Sasha Wurster and Ava Adamson reached base on a walk and infield single, respectively. Avery Staver singled to load the bases. The Panther offense was finally starting to stir, and junior center fielder Jersey Foote awakened it with a bang.

Foote parked a fastball from Earlham lefthander Reagan Ridout far over the left field fence for a bases-clearing grand slam to knot the score at 4-4.

Creston's Jersey Foote shows the Ron "Fox" Clinton Player of the Game T-shirt she received after hitting a grand slam home run in a 6-5 win over Earlham Saturday night.

“Usually when I go up to bat I try to tell myself, don’t try to hit a home run, just swing,” Foote said. “I went up there that time and thought, just hit a home run. Just try for it. And I did!”

From that moment forward, the Panthers’ tempo in the field and quality at-bats matched a ranked opponent for the first time all weekend. Panther junior Taryn Fredrickson was battling Ridout pitch for pitch, going the full nine innings in Creston’s dramatic 6-5 win.

Both teams went down in order in the seventh, sending the game into extra innings. Katie Steward’s dribbler toward third sent the lead runner home from third in Earlham’s eighth inning. The Cardinals were prevented from adding insurance runs with the bases loaded when second baseman Sophie Hagle snared a hard shot that caromed off the glove of first baseman Jaycee Hanson. Hagle grabbed the ball and dove to the bag for the third out just before the batter’s foot touched it.

Creston second baseman Sophie Hagle throws to first base to complete a double play after receiving a toss from shortstop Avery Staver (behind Hagle) during Saturday's 6-5 win over Earlham. Hagle had a game-tying hit with two outs in the eighth inning to send the game to the ninth inning.

Then, Hagle provided a clutch hit in the bottom of the eighth. Avery Staver reached base when her popup dropped in between Earlham fielders and Evy Marlin hit a one-out single to right field Fredrickson’s long flyball to the warning track in center was caught for the second out. Then, with two strikes, Hagle delivered a hit to drive in Staver with the tying run at 5-5.

Ninth-inning heroics

Fredrickson retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the ninth. In Creston’s ninth, Wurster beat out a slow roller with one out. Running on the pitch, Wurster easily scored the winning run on Ava Adamson’s opposite-field double to right center for the 6-5 win. For the first time all weekend, the Panthers were in celebration mode.

Adamson, who had been batting over .500 but mired in a mini-slump at 1-of-8 in the first three games of the classic, picked the perfect time to get back on track.

“I haven’t been hitting very good this weekend, but I just went into the box thinking you know what, I know I’m a good hitter, and I know my team is behind me,” said Adamson, the team’s catcher who had been hit in the throat by a foul tip earlier in the evening. “She’s been pitching me outside all night, so I’m just going to go with it. I usually don’t like to hit an outside pitch, but I drove this one to right field. We needed a win at our own tournament.”

Creston's Ava Adamson connects with a pitch during Saturday's John Stephens Classic game against Earlham. Later in the game, Adamson delivered the winning RBI double in the ninth inning for the 6-5 victory.

Adamson and Foote are two of Creston’s most dangerous hitters, game in and game out, and they led the team out of its offensive doldrums when it counted.

“I think Jersey’s hit was like a wakeup call for us,” Adamson said. “It was like, you know what, this isn’t like the other games (this weekend). We’re still in this. It got everyone going.”

Creston coach Dave Hartman, who had intentionally crafted tough opposition in the John Stephens Classic to prepare for postseason play, said his team seemed to turn a corner during the Earlham game.

“We needed to get something done in this tournament,” Hartman said. “It was a tough weekend to hit because we played some really good pitchers who changed speeds a lot. We were tough when we had to be in that last game. We kept saying, if we just keep swinging with good approaches, sooner or later were going to get them.”

With Avery Staver and Kennedy Strider sharing the pitching duties in an earlier 11-0 loss to Dallas Center-Grimes Saturday evening, Fredrickson was rested and looked sharp throughout the nine innings innings against Earlham. She allowed just two earned runs and six hits with eight strikeouts and six walks. Avery Staver and Marlin each had two of Creston’s 10 hits in the victory.

“Avery and Kennedy threw well against DC-Grimes, we just threw it away a few times on the bunts,” Hartman said. “We gambled on waiting on Taryn for the nightcap and it ended up paying off, because she had to go a long way in that one. She was facing good teams and learned how important it is to change speeds against hitters at that level.”

Creston third baseman Evy Marlin throws to first baseman Jaycee Hanson for an out during Saturday's loss to Dallas Center-Grimes. Marlin had two hits in the 6-5 win over Earlham later Saturday.

Earlham was coming off a 3-1 win Saturday over defending Class 4A state champion Winterset, which had beaten Creston 7-1 on Friday.

Previous games

Staver pitched three strong innings in the 11-0 loss to Dallas Center-Grimes, allowing no earned runs and one hit in a 1-0 deficit. Strider had the misfortune of a defensive lapse with four Creston errors in her first inning, when the Mustangs scored seven runs. Foote, Hagle and Wurster had Creston’s only hits against DC-G ace Aubrey Johansen, who notched 12 strikeouts.

On Friday morning, Winterset coach Steve Corkrean gained his 700th career victory in the 7-1 win over Creston to begin the classic. Brynn Acton went 3-of-4 with two RBIs and pitched two innings of relief for starter Molly Breeding. Both Winterset hurlers had four strikeouts and allowed only one hit by Creston’s Fredrickson, who was relieved by Strider after the Panthers fell behind 6-0. In two innings Strider allowed only two hits and one run.

Bondurant-Farrar did all of its damage early, staking an 8-1 lead in the third inning. From there, Fredrickson and B-F’s Chloe Thurlby yielded no runs. Avery Staver had two of Creston’s four hits and scored the team’s only run on Marlin’s first-inning single after Staver doubled. B-F finished with nine hits.

Creston starts another busy week at home Monday in a varsity doubleheader against Kuemper Catholic, followed by road games to Glenwood Tuesday, Clarinda Wednesday (makeup game) and Red Oak Thursday before the Oskaloosa tournament Saturday.

Friday

Winterset 7, Creston 1. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Creston: Taryn Fredrickson 1-2, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base. Winterset: Karlee Akers 2-3, 3 RBIs, double.

Winterset 5, Atlantic 3. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Atlantic: Makenna Schroeder 1-1, 2RBI, walk. Winterset: Zoey Greeding 1-1, 2 RBI, walk.

Ankeny 7, Atlantic 3. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Atlantic: Zoey Kirchoff 2-3, home run, 1 RBI. Ankeny: Aubrey Lensmeyer 11 strikeouts pitching and 1-4 hitting.

Bondurant-Farrar 3, Ankeny 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Ankeny: Abby Rusher 1-2, double. B-F: Jackie Baas 2-3, double, home run, 2 RBI.

Bondurant-Farrar 8, Creston 1. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Creston: Avery Staver 2-3, 1 run. B-F: Chloe Thurlby 2-3, double, 2 runs.

Saturday

Ankeny 12, Clarke 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Ankeny: Grace Rood 2-3, home run, 3 RBI. Clarke: Maddy McCoy 1-2, double.

Bondurant-Farrar 5, Atlantic 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — B-F: Chloe Thurlby 2-2, triple, single. Atlantic: Riley Wood 2-3, double, triple.

Dallas Center-Grimes 7, Clarinda 2. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — DC-G: Haylee Uhl 2-3, 2 RBI. Clarinda: Andi Woods 1-2, double.

Bondurant-Farrar 6, Mount Ayr 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — B-F: Lexi Havlovic 3-4, double, 3 RBIs. Mount Ayr: Kenzie Barnes 5 strikeouts pitching.

Ankeny 5, Knoxville 1. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Ankeny: Ava Tomlinson 1-3, double, 2 RBIs. Knoxville: Addison Dunkin 2-3.

Clarinda 11, East Union 1. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Clarinda: Presley Jobe 2-3, 2 runs. East Union: Tristin Lear 2-3.

Atlantic 7, Mount Ayr 2. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Atlantic: Lila Wiederstein 4-4, 3 doubles, triple, 3 RBIs. Mount Ayr: Breya Nickel, runner thrown out.

Clarke 13, Lenox 6. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Clarke: Maisy McCoy 2-5, 1 RBI, 3 runs. Lenox: Zoey Reed, 2-3, double, 1 RBI, 2 runs.

Dallas Center-Grimes 3, Knoxville 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — DC-G: Macee Reiling 2-3, home run, 2 RBIs. Knoxville: Hannah Dunkin 1-2, double.

Earlham 3, Winterset 1. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Earlham: Hayley Glade double. Winterset: Molly Breeding 2 hits, 3 RBIs, 6 strikeouts pitching.

Winterset 15, Lenox 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Winterset: Neela Applegate 2 doubles, home run, 2 RBIs. Lenox: Sadie Cox, outstanding infield play.

Dallas Center-Grimes 11, Creston 0. Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — DC-G: Lydia Zuruba 3-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs. Creston: Sophie Hagle 1-2, stolen base.

Creston 6, Earlham 5 (9 innings). Ron “Fox” Clinton Players of Game — Creston: Jersey Foote 1-4, grand slam home run, 4 RBIs. Earlham: Katie Jansen 2-4.

Larry Peterson

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.