HCHS answers Creston challenge in district baseball opener

Bartley home run highlights four-run fourth, Bruck strikes out 12 as Cyclones pull away for 9-2 victory

 HARLAN (July 17) -- In baseball - or any sport for that matter - it’s important to answer an opponent’s rally as quickly as possible to keep momentum on your side.
 Harlan Community was able to do that and then some Friday night, countering Creston’s two-run top of the fourth with four runs in the bottom of the inning, then adding two in the sixth to put away the Panthers 9-2 in a Class 3A, District 16 semifinal.
 Brenden Bartley finished a triple short of the cycle and drove in three runs for the Cyclones while Connor Bruck battled through some command issues with 12 strikeouts in six innings of two-hit ball on the mound.
 HCHS improved to 13-3 and set up a district final home game against Denison-Schleswig (11-8) on Monday.
 “We did what we had to,” said HCHS head coach Steve Daeges, whose team outhit Creston 9-2 and committed just one error defensively.
 The Cyclones scored one run each in the first three innings but had their early lead cut to 3-2 in the fourth. After Brayton Chesnut led off with a double to deep left-center field - the Panthers’ first hit of the night - Bruck walked or hit four of the next six batters and forced in two runs in the process.
 HCHS answered right back, however, ignited by Cade Sears’ perfectly-placed bunt single. After Bruck singled to right and stole second, Joey Moser delivered a two-run single up the middle and Bartley followed with a majestic two-run homer to left that made it 7-2 and chased Panther starting pitcher Evan Bruce.
 Creston (4-10) made some two-out noise in the fifth, including a Gavin Gillam double, but was otherwise held in check the rest of the way.
 Bruck (4-1) finished his six-inning stint with four straight strikeouts and threw 105 pitches on the night - a count elevated due to five walks and two hit batters as he worked to a strike zone that was somewhat tight. Alex Monson pitched a scoreless seventh in relief.
 “(Connor) was really struggling tonight to locate his fastball, which is unusual for him, but pitchers have nights like that,” said Daeges.
 The top three batters in the Cyclone order - Bruck, Moser and Bartley - did most of the damage, combining to go 7-for-10 with six runs scored and five RBI. Bartley led the way, going 3-for-3 with a double and a homer.
 At the point of contact, Bartley wasn’t convinced that his second home run of the year had enough juice to clear the wall. “I didn’t think it was going over. The wind carried it. That’s what everybody is telling me,” he said.

Class 3A, Substate 8 Baseball Tourney
District Semifinal Scores: Friday, July 17
DISTRICT 15:                                        DISTRICT 16:
DC-Grimes 15, Greene County 1 (5)    Harlan Community 9, Creston 2
Carroll 11, Atlantic 1 (5)                        Denison-Schleswig 11, Glenwood 0 (6)
District Finals: Monday, July 20
District 15: Carroll (8-12) at Dallas Center-Grimes (15-3), 7:00 p.m.
District 16: Denison-Schleswig (11-8) at Harlan Community (13-3), 7:00 p.m.
Substate 8 Final: Wednesday, July 22 (site TBD), 7:00 p.m.

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