Creighton (11-7, 0-0 MVC) vs. Missouri State (16-6, 0-0 MVC)
- Friday: 6:30 p.m. CT, Springfield, Missouri
- Saturday: 2:00 p.m. CT, Springfield
- Sunday: 1:00 p.m. CT, Springfield
When last the Creighton Bluejays and Missouri State Bears saw each other on the diamond, the two teams played gut-wrenching elimination games at the 2011 Missouri Valley Conference tournament at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha last May. Those games came a week after the Jays swept the Bears in Omaha to win the league regular season title. And after losing the first matchup in the MVC tournament, the Bluejays beat the Bears in two straight one-run games to advance to the tournament championship where they would eventually defeat Wichita State for the title.
The Bears and Bluejays entered the 2012 season picked first and second, respectively, in the Valley preseason poll. The Jays struggled to string together winning streaks thus far this season, and enter league play four games over .500. The Bears, meanwhile, are ten games above .500 and boast arguably the league’s best pitching staff through the first third of the season.
Baseball on the radio! This weekend marks the (delayed) return of John Bishop and Dave Gustafson to the Creighton baseball broadcast booth. Listen to the weekend’s games on KOIL 1180 AM, track live stats here, and/or get in-game updates via Twitter updates at @gocreighton and @CU_baseball.
The Bluejays have won five of their past six games. The success started in the team’s final game at Pacific, a 12-2 victory to wrap up the spring break trip, and continued against BYU (2-0) and Louisiana Tech (2-1). CU dropped the first game last weekend (4-1) in a three-game series against North Dakota, but blasted the Fighting Sioux in a Saturday doubleheader (12-3, 16-3).
Creighton was scheduled to play a non-conference road game at Kansas State earlier this week, but that contest fell victim to inclement weather.
The Bears played Southeast Missouri State Tuesday, romping SEMO 8-1. That win came a few days after MSU went 3-1 in a split-location series against Oral Roberts. The Bears lost the first of two games in Tulsa, then returned to Springfield and swept the two games at Hammons Field.
The Bluejays have the slight edge in the all-time series between the two schools. CU is 40-38 against MSU, including five wins in the team’s six meetings at the end of 2011.
On the Mound
- Friday: CU’s Ty Blach (3-1, 1.60 ERA) vs. MSU’s Pierce Johnson (1-3, 2.41)
- Saturday: CU’s Andrew Urban (1-1, 2.55) vs. MSU’s Nick Petree (4-1, 1.54)
- Sunday: CU’s Nick Musec (3-0, 5.12) vs. MSU’s Clay Murphy (3-1, 1.80)
Missouri State leads the league in pitching entering conference play, with a 2.63 team ERA in 22 games. The Bluejays are fourth with a 3.69 collective ERA. The Bears’ three weekend starters are among the top ten in the Valley in ERA; Blach’s 1.60 puts him between Petree and Murphy for the fifth best average entering the weekend. Johnson is first and Murphy third in the league in strikeouts.
Creighton pitchers have offered the fewest walks of any Valley pitching staff entering league play, but have recorded the fewest strikeouts as a staff. The Jays are squarely in the middle of the MVC with their 3.69 combined ERA.
At the Plate
The Bluejays’ season box score got a bit healthier after last Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Fighting Sioux. Creighton scored 28 runs in the two games, one day after managing to scratch across just one run in a 4-1 series-opening loss to North Dakota.
Nick Judkins leads CU regulars with a .386 average and 18 RBI. He went 5-9 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in the Saturday sweep of the Sioux, improving his average from .361 to .386. Chance Ross is hitting .299 on the season, even after managing just one hit in 8 at bats against the Sioux on Saturday. He still managed to score 5 runs during the twin bill, and he leads the team with 22 runs through 18 games.
Anthony Bemboom (.284, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 7 runs) had a great weekend, going 5-8 with 4 RBI and 4 runs scored on Saturday against North Dakota. He collected a double and his first home run of the season in the doubleheader’s second game. He earned MVC Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
Coach Servais gave Brad McKewon two starts Saturday, and he produced: McKewon went 4-7 with 6 RBI and 2 runs. He legged out a triple in the first game and hit his first homer of the season in the second game. He raised his average from .214 to .286 in the span of 7 at bats. Gabriel Thibodeaux also earned two starts Saturday, and like McKewon made the most of his opportunity. Thibodeaux went 3-7 with 4 RBI and 4 runs scored, hitting his first two home runs of the season in the second game of the doubleheader.
After collecting 9 hits in his first 19 at bats this season, freshman Jake Peter has cooled a bit with the bat. He has just 3 hits in his next 30 ABs, lowering his average from .474 to .245. Returners Alex Staehely (.203, 13 RBI, 7 runs) and Mike Gerber (.212, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 10 runs) are near the top of the team in driving in runs, but are hovering near .200 in average. Staehely drove in 4 runs in the weekend’s final game against North Dakota, a few hours after Gerber drove in 4 himself against the Sioux (via a grand slam).
Spiker Helms (.333, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 26 runs), Luke Voit (.289, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 16 runs), Brock Chaffin (.310, 18 RBI, 6 runs), and Brent Seifert (.272, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 17 runs) lead a potent MSU offense. The Bears score an average of 5.13 runs per game, outscoring opponents 113-69 in 2012. Helms and Seifert are tied for the league lead with 9 doubles each, while Helms’ 26 runs scored also lead the MVC.
Facts, Figures, and Fodder
Chance Ross is second in the MVC in walks… Nick Judkins’ .494 on-base percentage is second in the Valley and 81st in the country… Anthony Bemboom has struck out just four times this season, 66th nationally in that category… Mike Gerber’s grand slam against North Dakota was Creighton’s first since Darin Ruf hit one in 2008… Mark Winkelman leads Creighton’s pitching staff with 11 appearances… Ty Blach and Reese McGraw have been named MVC Pitchers of the Week already this season… MSU coach Keith Guttin is in his 30th season as the manager of the Bears baseball program… The Bluejays haven’t lost a Valley season opening series since 2008 at Missouri State.
Temps could top out in the upper 50s at first pitch Friday night. The skies should be clear and sunny Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with highs in the lower 70s — perfect baseball weather.