Series: Southern Illinois wins 2-1
Creighton: 27-10, 6-3 MVC
The road teams posted victories in all three Missouri Valley Conference series on Sunday, with arguably the most important win coming in Omaha by Southern Illinois. SIU’s 2-1 win was the finishing touch on a weekend that featured three one-run games, the last two going to the Salukis.
One week after going to Terre Haute and sweeping Indiana State, the Bluejays entered the national rankings and opened a new home stadium. But the good vibes all but disappeared by the end of Easter weekend. Creighton began the week with a loss to Nebraska, blew a save in the Friday opener against SIU but won in extra innings, and then went 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position in losses on Saturday and Sunday.
The Bluejays had a chance to distance themselves from a few other teams in the Valley standings, but instead sit tied with Southern Illinois and Missouri State at 6-3 in league play. Below, we wrap up the weekend that was in Creighton baseball.
I’ll be honest. I was too busy gazing at everything the new TD Ameritrade Park has to offer to see how the Bluejays scored their first run of the weekend. I’m not sure what hurt more, though: CU having to scratch across its first tally of the night via Trever Adams taking a hit by pitch for a bases loaded RBI, or me having to pass up all the tasty treats at TDAP because it was the last Friday during Lent.
Mike Gerber took my mind off both predicaments in the Bluejays half of the fourth inning, blasting a solo shot to right field for the first home run in Creighton’s new digs. Meanwhile, Ty Blach allowed just two SIU hits through the first five innings while striking out eight Salukis. But the Bluejay ace ran into trouble in the sixth, and Southern Illinois tied the game at 2 apiece thanks to a leadoff single and consecutive one-out doubles.
Creighton reclaimed the lead in the seventh inning, thanks to Ed Servais Smallball. A leadoff double by Chance Ross allowed Joey Bowens to bunt the runner to third base with one out. From there, Michael Mutcheson hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Ross home as the go-ahead run.
Jack VanLeur, who got the last SIU out in the seventh inning, pitched a scoreless eighth frame and handed the ball to Kurt Spomer to close out the game in the ninth. But a one-out single turned into the tying run after a two-out double, and the game headed to extra innings.
The Salukis struck first in extras, scoring an unearned run to take the lead thanks to a dropped fly ball by Bowens and a wild pitch by Reese McGraw. But Adams would orchestrate a Creighton comeback in the bottom of the tenth, taking another bean ball with one out and then advancing to third on an Alex Staehely single with one out. Anthony Bemboom doubled to tie the game at 4, and then Ross singled after an intentional walk to Gerber to score Staehely from third.
After striking out 11 times on Friday night, the Bluejays whiffed 11 more times Saturday afternoon against Cody Forsythe and the SIU pitching staff. Adams tried to pave the way for another late inning Creighton win, blasting a two-run homer in the ninth to make it 3-2 with no outs. But two walks later, with the tying run at second base with just one out, Gerber struck out and Clay Cuno popped out on the infield to end the Bluejays threat.
Forsythe entered the afternoon as the most consistent Southern Illinois starter, a position he cemented with seven innings of shutout pitching. He surrendered just four hits and two walks while striking out a career-high 10 batters, and he lowered his ERA to 1.89. Jonas Dufek was better this weekend than he was against Indiana State, but without any run support the senior lost his first game of the season. Dufek also went seven innings and also allowed just four hits. But one was a two-run homer in the SIU second inning, a hit that put the Bluejays playing from behind the rest of the afternoon.
Sunday’s rubber match again featured outstanding starting pitching efforts. But Southern Illinois’ Brad Drust was one run better than Creighton’s Greg Hellhake. Drust struck out 7 Bluejays and didn’t walk a batter, and the SIU starter scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing just one run on a Staehely RBI double. Hellhake went 6.2 innings and gave up just three hits, but he walked three batters and one of those free passes came around to score on an RBI triple in the SIU fourth inning.
The Bluejays outhit the Salukis but couldn’t collect the clutch hit needed to overtake their guests from Carbondale. After not collecting a hit with runners in scoring position in six chances on Saturday, the Jays only picked up one such knock in 12 chances on Sunday. It was a bad ended to a long, exciting, and ultimately disappointing week for the Bluejays baseball program. But Servais told the Omaha World-Herald his team would learn from it.
“There was a lot on the kids’ plate this week,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “Not only did they move into a new venue but they played Nebraska, they were playing their first conference home series here, they were in first place and they were ranked for the first time.
“That’s a lot, and we didn’t handle it very well. We had worked hard to get to that point but we’ll learn from this and we’ll move forward.”
The Bluejays will get plenty of chances this week, as they stay home for four games at TD Ameritrade Park. The Kansas Jayhawks come to town Tuesday for a non-conference game, followed by a visit by Bradley, the Valley’s last place team.