Series: Creighton wins 2-1
Creighton: 22-7, 2-1 MVC (2nd)
After beginning the first weekend of Missouri Valley Conference play by coughing up a late inning lead at Illinois State, the Creighton baseball team battled back to take the last two games of the series. The Bluejays lead the league in wins (22) and are just one game off the pace in the league standings, behind Southern Illinois. The Salukis are the only team in the league under .500 for the season, but they swept Evansville to start Valley play and are perched atop the conference.
Ahead of a midweek game with Kansas State and a trip to Terre Haute to face Indiana State, we take a look at last weekend’s Creighton baseball games.
Despite committing four errors, the Redbirds overcame a 4-1 deficit after five innings to win the series opener. Ty Blach bested the ISU hitters until the sixth inning, when he ran into trouble with one out. Back-to-back singles by Ryan Court and Tyler McNeely set the table for Zach Amrein, who doubled in both runners. Chase Webb relieved Blach and got out of the inning, but he issued a one-out walk in the seventh, which was followed by a Kevin Tokarski double and another free pass to load the bases.
Reese McGraw took over for Webb and summarily gave up a two-run singled to Court and then hit McNeely. The Bluejays couldn’t match the Redbirds’ late rally, as CU failed to score after the fourth inning. Trever Adams led the way for the Jays, going 1 for 4 with two runs batted in.
Adams brought the Bluejays all the offense they would need in the second game of the weekend, while Jonas Dufek proved why he’s one of the league’s best pitchers.
With CU leading 1-0 in the fifth inning, Adams delivered a bases-loaded base hit to bring in two runs. Then, after Illinois State cut the CU lead to 4-2, Adams wrapped a bases-loaded triple, plating three runs en route to a four-run eighth inning. Meanwhile, Dufek cruised through six innings of four-hit baseball, allowing just two runs while striking out nine Redbirds and issuing five walks.
Sunday games in league play have a history of being wild and wooly affairs, and the rubber match between CU and ISU held true to form. Despite striking out 15 times and failing to record an extra base hit, the Jays took a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning. After Webb and Jack VanLeur bridged the late innings after Greg Hellhake tossed five solid frames to start the game, Mark Winkleman came in to wrap up the Redbirds’ final three outs.
But the last inning played out like a nightmare for Ed Servais and the Jays. After retiring the first batter on a foul pop fly and then striking out Chad Hinshaw for the second out, Winkelman gave up a home run to Tokarski, a triple to David Fallon, and a double to McNeely. Kurt Spomer relieved Winkelman and gave up a run-scoring double to Court, who sat at second as the tying run with Matt Mirabal at the plate. But Spomer closed out the save, his second in as many days, by inducing Mirabal to strike out, and the Jays left Normal with a series victory.
So the Bluejays take a winning streak into today’s 3 p.m. game against Kansas State. It will be a bittersweet afternoon at the CU Sports Complex, as Ed Servais and the Jays say farewell to playing games at the 23-year-old campus baseball stadium. The weather forecast projects a perfect day for baseball, something that die-hard Creighton baseball fans won’t necessarily connect with their memories of playing at the complex.
But if you’ve been watching home games on the metal bleachers during the past two decades, you no doubt have positive — if chilly — recollections of many a game played under windy and cold conditions, when powdery hot chocolate sales outpaced those of hot dogs and cracker jacks. One week before Creighton christens TD Ameritrade Park, they’ve close the book on an important piece of Bluejays sports history. I hope you’re there this afternoon to help.