Game 1: 9:00 a.m. #3 Indiana State vs. #6 Creighton
Game 2: 12:30 p.m. #2 Illinois State vs. #7 Bradley
Game 3: 4:00 p.m. #4 Southern Illinois vs. #5 Evansville
Game 4: 7:30 p.m. #1 Wichita State vs. #8 Missouri State
Game 5: 9:00 a.m. Wednesday (#6 Creighton vs. #7 Bradley)
Game 6: 12:30 p.m. Wednesday (#4 Southern Illinois vs. #8 Missouri State)
Game 7: 4:00 p.m. Wednesday (#3 Indiana State vs. #2 Illinois State)
Game 8: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (#5 Evansville vs. #1 Wichita State)
Game 9: 9:00 a.m. Thursday (#6 Creighton vs. #3 Indiana State)
Game 10: 12:30 p.m. Thursday (#8 Missouri State vs. #5 Evansville)
Game 11: 4:00 p.m. Thursday (#2 Illinois State vs. Winner Game 9)
Game 12: 7:30 p.m. Thursday (#1 Wichita State vs. Winner Game 10)
*Game 13: 12:30 p.m. Friday (Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11)
*Game 14: 4:00 p.m. Friday (Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12)
Game 15: 1:30 p.m. Saturday (Winner Game 11 or 13 vs. Winner Game 12 or 14)
Are you read to grab some breakfast with the Bluejays Tuesday? Creighton and Indiana State will open the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Tournament bright and early with a 9:00 a.m. first pitch. Some Jays fans might be at work then, and others might be just waking up. But you can bet Ed Servais will have his club ready to play: the Jays haven’t lost a first round game in the MVC Tournament during Servais’ tenure as CU’s skipper.
Creighton enters the tournament as the #6 for the fourth time in school history, but for the first time with Servais as manager. The good news? The Bluejays are on the opposite side of the bracket as Wichita State, the #1 seed and de facto home team throughout the weekend.
The Bluejays played the Shockers for a title this time last year. But how far does the 2010 Creighton baseball team seem from a legitimate shot at a Valley championship? Last season they had a few individuals step up with spectacular efforts; who will elevate his game this week?
Rain could be a factor this week, according to the folks at Accuweather. And we should probably trust them, right? I mean, the company’s name implies they are accurate. At least, more accurate at predicting the weather than I. Maybe.
Against Indiana State This Season
Creighton opened the home portion of its Valley schedule against the Sycamores on Easter weekend. Heck, the Jays even hosted a Good Friday fish fry at Rosenblatt Stadium. And how did the Trees repay their generous hosts? With an 8-5 Friday night win and a 5-3 come-from-behind victory in the series’ first two games. The Jays salvaged the Sunday series finale, but only after blowing a 6-3 lead in the 9th inning and having to win in their last at-bat. You can revisit all the gory details here, courtesy of Danny O’Byrne.
Against the Rest of Their Bracket
Creighton has struggled against the other teams in its side of the bracket, going 3-6 against Bradley (2-1, in Peoria), Illinois State (0-3, in Normal), and the Sycamores.
On the Mound
- CU’s Jonas Dufek (8-3, 4.66 ERA) vs. ISU’s Jacob Petricka (7-4, 3.79 ERA)
Friday’s matchup on the mound features two of the Valley’s standout juniors, and a rematch of the season’s first CU-ISU game.
Indiana State’s Jacob Petricka, a second-team All-MVC pick as a sophomore, elevated his level of honors in 2010. The Sycamores’ Friday night starter garnered first-team All-MVC recognition this season, joining Wichita State’s Jordan Cooper (Valley Pitcher of the Year) and Tim Kelley as the Valley’s first-team starting pitchers.
Dufek also established himself as his team’s Friday starter, winning a team-high 8 games (a mark also tied for 3rd best among all Valley hurlers). The junior from Millard West earned second-team All-MVC honors in 2010, one of just two Bluejays to earn first- or second-team recognition (Elliot Soto also gained a spot on the second squad).
Back in April, Petricka went 7 innings, gave up just 3 hits and 1 run, and struck out 5 Jays on his way to his 4th win of the season. Dufek also went deep into the game, allowing just 4 runs on 6 hits in 7.1 innings while striking out 7 Trees. Both Petricka and Dufek kept the ball around the plate, as each pitcher issued just 1 walk.
As a staff, Indiana State posts a 4.50 ERA, good for second-best in the Valley. Creighton concedes more than a half run more per game, as Bluejays pitchers bring a 5.14 ERA (4th in the MVC) into the Valley tournament.
The Sycamores staff yields the lowest opposing batting average in the league (.255), while CU hurlers allow opposing hitters to a .278 average (4th in MVC).
Still, if CU can be patient, the Jays might be able to take advantage of one ISU weakenss – walks. The Sycamores issued 219 free passes in 2010, second-worst in the MVC. The Jays, on the other hand, allowed the fewest walks in the league (146).
At the Plate
Indiana State leads the league with a .313 team batting average. The Jays? They’re hitting .284, better only than Missouri State, the league’s worst team. The Sycamores also outpace the Bluejays in areas such as on base percentage, runs scored, hits, runs batted in, and walks. Still, CU has on its resume more doubles than ISU, just as many triples, and far more home runs.
Still, what the Sycamores lack in obvious power they make up for with plate coverage. Indiana State struck out a league-low 257 times, compared to Creighton’s 368 Ks.
Individually, Indiana State boasts an impressive number of exceptional offensive players. Chief among these hitters is Ryan Strausborger, a first-team All-MVC outfielder. Sure, he doesn’t have the best batting average on his team (those marks belong to Luke Fieser and Robby Ort). But the senior is 2nd in the Valley in runs scored (58), 4th in hits (78), 5th in doubles (17), 2nd in triples (8), and tied for 6th in total bases (120).
Once on the base paths, Strausborger wreaks havoc. His 39 stolen bases are second-best in the Valley, accomplished in a mere 43 tries.
Creighton’s main offensive threat is junior Trever Adams, an honorable mention selection in his first year at CU. Adams is 9th in the Valley in batting average (.356), 6th in slugging percentage (.619), 6th in on-base percentage (.443), 6th in runs batted in (51), and tied for 5th in home runs (10).
Still, in the middle of Servais’ batting order, Adams (51) and Ian Dike (61) find themselves at the top of the league’s strikeout leaders.
In the Field
Creighton comes into the MVC Tournament leading the nation in fielding percentage. CU’s .981 mark, coupled with a nation-low 33 errors, continue the precedent set by Servais’ previous Jays teams. The Sycamores post the second-best fielding percentage in the Valley during the regular season (.976).
Facts, Figures, and Fodder
Creighton hasn’t committed an error at Eck Stadium, host of this year’s MVC Tournament, in 404 consecutive chances spanning 3 years… Creighton has reached the Valley title game in 3 of the past 5 years… Senior Robbie Knight has 13 RBI in 13 career MVC Tournament games, but has hit just .255… Jimmy Swift has the best batting average among current Jays (.462), accrued in 4 career games… Creighton is attempting to become just the second team in history to lead the nation in team fielding percentage… It took senior Ian Dike 319 career at-bats to record his first triple at Creighton, which he hit in the first of two games on May 21 against New Orleans. He got his second career triple just 7 plate appearances later, in his last at-bat of the doubleheader’s second game… After missing 16 straight games, Knight came back to the Bluejays lineup and brought with him a hot bat. He is 8-21 with 4 doubles since returning to the field.