Creighton opened up MVC play on Friday in Carbondale against the scuffling Salukis, who came in with a record of 9-12 although they’d won two games earlier in the week against UT-Martin and Eastern Illinois. The Jays entered the game 10-5 despite losing on a two-out walk-off single at Kansas on Tuesday.
After wining all four games last year against SIU, the Jays were eager to continue their winning ways. Those four wins included a three-game sweep in Omaha, which was highlighted by two eighth inning comebacks, and a 10-0 blowout. In the MVC Tourney, the Jays rode the arm of Jeremy Hauer, who threw a five-hit, complete game gem for a 5-1 victory.
Junior Jonas Dufek started the opener and pitched well, scattering six hits over six innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out five, lowering his ERA to 5.40. He put the team in an early hole, however, giving up a first inning homerun to SIU’s Chris Serritella, his league-leading ninth longball of the season. The Jays would manufacture a run to tie it in the second, as T.J. Roemmich led off the inning with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice by Carson Vitale, and scored on a groundout to short by Jimmy Swift.
SIU would retake the lead in the third, grouping together doubles from Brock Harding and Chris Murphy to go ahead 2-1. The Jays manufactured another run in the fourth to tie it, however. Vitale beat out a swinging bunt for an infield hit, and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Swift. Scott Thornburg singled to left, and Vitale’s nifty slide to the outside of the plate avoided the tag for the tying run.
The go-ahead run for the Jays came in the next inning, when a Robbie Knight single, an Elliott Soto walk and a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Trever Adams, who grounded out to short, knocking in what proved to be the winning run. The RBI for Adams was his 21st, which tied him for the team lead with Roemmich.
Matt Patterson and Jack VanLeur shut down the Salukis in innings 7-8-9, combining to give up two hits and no runs. VanLeur’s two innings of work earned him his third save as the Jays won the opener, 4-2.
Sunday’s forecast for rain forced the teams to cancel Sunday’s planned game, and they played a doubleheader on Saturday to make it up. In the first game of the twinbill, a pitcher’s duel between Creighton’s Brandon Koenigstein and SIU’s Nathan Forer broke out. Koenigstein pitched seven innings of five hit ball, giving up one unearned run and needing just 75 pitches to accomplish it. Forer matched him, also throwing seven innings of five hit ball, though he allowed two runs (one unearned).
The Jays went ahead 1-0 in the top half of the first inning, when with two outs Trever Adams scorched a line drive back up the middle, and advanced to second on a passed ball. T.J. Roemmich then hit a ball that was nearly a carbon-copy of Adams’, driving him home with the game’s first run. SIU tied the game in the fifth thanks to a rare CU error, and some solid small-ball. Tyler Bullock led off the inning with a chopper to second that the usually sure-handed Alex Staehely couldn’t handle. Nick Johnson reached on a fielder’s choice that forced Bullock out at second, then promptly stole second base, allowing him to score on a Brock Harding single through the middle.
Creighton senior Ian Dike had been struggling, going 0-10 with seven strikeouts in his previous ten at-bats when he strolled to the plate with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning. Dike laced a double down the right-field line, bringing Jimmy Swift around and giving the Jays a 2-1 lead. Jack VanLeur entered the game in the ninth with one out, and struck out the three-and-four hitters in the SIU lineup for his fourth save and second in as many days in Carbondale.
The win moved Creighton to 12-5 and 2-0 in the MVC, with a chance for a sweep of both the series and the doubleheader later in the afternoon.
The second game of the doubleheader was a thriller, with Creighton tying the game in the ninth only to lose it two innings later as the Salukis walked off with an 11-inning victory. The Jays never led in the game, as starter Ty Blach surrendered four runs in six innings. Just one of the runs was earned, however, as an uncharacteristic three errors behind him clouded a solid outing in which he struck out seven batters.
SIU closer Bryant George entered the game in the ninth to lock it down, but Alex Staehely led off the inning with a single. Robbie Knight’s sac bunt moved him over to second, and a single by Elliot Soto put runners on the corners and pressure on the closer. George rallied to strike out team RBI leader Trever Adams, but T.J. Roemmich had his back, lining a single through the left side to tie the game. George was able to prevent the Jays from taking the lead, however, by inducing Jimmy Swift to ground out to end the threat.
In his second inning of work out of the CU bullpen, Bobby Lackovic opened the 11th by giving up a single to center to Tyler Bullock. After a pinch runner, a sac bunt, and a wild pitch by Lackovic, the winning run was just 90 feet away. He struck out pinch-hitter Jordan Sivertsen, and then issued an intentional walk to Tony Lepore to force the struggling Michael Stalter, batting just .245 on the season and 0-4 in the game, to beat them. Stalter blooped a ball into center that fell between three Creighton defenders, giving the Salukis the 5-4 win.
Creighton’s 2010 Home Opener is this Friday, when they host Indiana State at Rosenblatt Stadium. First pitch is slated for 6:00 p.m.