Omaha plays host to the Missouri Valley Conference baseball championship tournament, beginning Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Creighton, the tournament’s #1 seed, takes on Bradley in the last game of the day.
Here’s some quick information to read before you settle into your seat at TD Ameritrade Park, the nation’s premier college baseball facility, for Tuesday’s matchups.
9:00 a.m. — #3 Illinois State (35-16 / 13-8) vs. #6 Indiana State (26-26 / 8-13)
Fresh off a series sweep against Evansville, Mark Kingston brings his Redbirds to Omaha as the defending Valley tournament champions. ISU will send honorable mention All-Valley pitcher Corey Maines to the mound early Tuesday morning to take on Indiana State. Joining Maines with honors is third baseman Ryan Court, outfielder Tyler McNeely, and reliever Kenny Long (all-MVC first-team selections), as well as Kevin Tokarski, JD Learnard, and Justin Hauer (honorable mentions).
The Sycamores will counter with regular Friday starter Colin Rea, who has pitched well as of late. For Indiana State to pull off a victory, all-Valley selections Robby Ort (first team) and Jeremy Lucas (second team) must put pressure on a solid Redbird pitching staff (tops in the MVC in ERA). These two teams met in late April, with the Redbirds taking two of three games from the Trees.
12:30 p.m. — #2 Wichita State (36-24 / 14-7) vs. #7 Evansville (28-23 / 7-13)
The Shockers were one Creighton loss last weekend away from splitting a league title with the Bluejays, thanks to their season-ending sweep of Bradley in Peoria. As it stands, Wichita State is the #2 seed and will play in the Valley tournament away from Eck Stadium for the first time since 2007, when the championship took place in Springfield, Missouri.
Tournament week started well for Gene Stephenson’s Shockers, as Chris O’Brien and Charlie Lowell won the Valley Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year awards, respectively. First baseman Johnny Coy and designated hitter Preston Springer joined O’Brien and Lowell on the All-MVC first team, while shortstop Tyler Grimes and bullpen arm Cale Elam earned second team honors.
In a shuffle of its rotation, Evansville will send senior star Cody Fick to the mound to start against WSU. An all-MVC performer at multiple positions, the Aces’ usual Sunday starter gets the nod to open Evansville’s tournament championship hopes.
After losing the first game of the regular season series 12-11 in mid-April, the Shockers battled back at home to take the last two games against UE for a series win.
4:00 p.m. — #4 Missouri State (31-21 / 11-9) vs. #5 Southern Illinois (22-32 / 11-10)
The Bears took two of three at SIU during the regular season, with MSU’s Nick Petree beating the Salukis in the Friday night game and SIU hurler Cody Forsythe beating the Bears in the teams’ second game. Those two All-MVC selections will square off in Tuesday’s tournament opener, giving fans arguably the best pitching matchup of the first round.
The Bears are probably comfortable at TD Ameritrade Park by now, although their stay hasn’t been a successful one. Coming off a season-ending sweep at the hands of the Creighton Bluejays, Missouri State meets a team in SIU that has been more successful in Omaha this season. The Salukis took two of three from CU in April, losing the Friday night game 5-4 in 10 innings but bouncing back for one-run wins on Saturday and Sunday.
7:30 p.m. — #1 Creighton (39-13 / 15-6) vs. #8 Bradley (22-30 / 4-17)
Valley Coach of the Year Ed Servais leads the Bluejays against a former Jay, CU alum and current Bradley skipper Elvis Dominguez. Taking the field for Servais will be six All-Valley selections, including first-team pitcher Jonas Dufek, the starter against the Braves. Middle-of-the-order hitters Trever Adams and Jimmy Swift join Dufek on the All-MVC first team, while Wednesday’s starter Ty Blach is joined by Mike Gerber and Kurt Spomer on the second team.
This year marks the first time since 1978 that Creighton plays host to the MVC tournament, and to do it as the field’s top seed puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Jays in this opening game. Still, CU has had recent success against the Braves, having swept Bradley in Omaha in late April. Joe Bircher will be on the mound for the Braves. The second team All-MVC honoree is from Omaha and played his high school ball at Roncalli.
Check back with WBR for coverage of Creighton’s quest for the Valley championship. For more information about the tournament, visit the league’s Championship Central site or visit the Omaha World-Herald’s Tournament Central.
Listen to John Bishop and David Gustafson on 1620 AM KOZN, or click here to stream the live radio broadcast.