The Tenth Inning: Creighton Starts 2-0 in Valley Tournament
Game 5: Evansville 8, Indiana State 5
Game 7: Creighton 11, Illinois State 5
Game 9: Illinois State vs. Evansville — 9:00 a.m. Thursday
Game 11: Creighton vs. Game 9 winner — 4:00 p.m. Thursday
Game 13: (If necessary)
Game 8: Southern Illinois 9, Bradley 8 (10 innings)
Game 10: Bradley vs. Missouri State — 12:30 p.m. Thursday
Game 12: Southern Illinois vs. Game 10 winner — 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Game 14: (If necessary)
Championship Game: 7:00 p.m. Saturday
A largely frustrating season for Creighton’s baseball program and the fans who follow it took an interesting turn Tuesday and Wednesday at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Springfield, Missouri.
The eighth-seeded Bluejays, who won just six games in the Valley regular season, claimed two victories in a little more than 24 hours. With wins against top-seeded Indiana State and fourth-seeded Illinois State, Ed Servais and the Jays have control of Bracket A in their quest to repeat as tournament champions.
Evansville and Illinois State, each with a loss already in this tournament, play at 9:00 a.m. today. The winner gets Creighton at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, and must beat CU today and Friday to earn a spot in Saturday’s title game. The Jays wrestled pole position for that game away from the rest of Bracket A with a resounding 11-5 win against the Redbirds Wednesday afternoon.
Shane Liska got the nod to start against Illinois State and he rose to the challenge, tying a career high with six innings of work. After coughing up an early one-run lead in the top of the third inning, Liska settled down behind plenty of support from the Bluejays bats. CU tallied at least one run in every inning from the second to the seventh, with Mike Gerber and Chance Ross delivering deciding blows via two-run and three-run home runs, respectively. Meanwhile, Liska struck out six Redbirds while issuing only one walk and scattering five hits.
The Bluejays pushed their first run across with two outs in the second inning, thanks to a pop up by Brad McKewon that blew away from the Illinois State first baseman and drove in Alex Staehely from second base. The tough ISU lineup wrestled the lead back in the top of the third inning, thanks to consecutive singles, a run-scoring double, and passed ball. In the Creighton half of the inning, though, the Bluejays would take the lead for good thanks to a Scott Thornburg walk and Gerber’s towering two-run shot, his fourth of the season.
Staked to a 3-2 lead, Liska set the Redbirds down in order in the fourth inning and turned the game over to his offense. The Jays scored two more runs in the inning, the first on an RBI single by Nick Judkins, and the second on an error by ISU that plated Judkins.
Liska allowed Ty Wiesemeyer’s second double of the day in the fifth, but struck out three other Redbirds to get out of the inning unscathed. Gerber led off the CU side of the fifth with a single and then scored on a one-out base hit by Jake Peter. Liska blanked the Redbirds again in the sixth inning, then got even more run support thanks to a run-scoring triple by Anthony Bemboom and an RBI double by Gerber.
Liska left the game with the comfortable 8-2 lead and watched from the pine as Ross added a final blow to Illinois State’s comeback chances. With two outs in the seventh inning, McKewon and Judkins singled to keep the inning alive for the senior infielder. Ross bashed a 2-1 pitch to left field, clearing the fence at Hammons Field for a three-run shot that put CU up 11-2.
The top four hitters in Creighton’s lineup finished 8-15 with six runs scored and six runs driven in. They didn’t strike out once; as a team, the Jays only went down on strikes twice. Gerber went 4-5 and drove in three runs in the six-spot in the order, while Ross’ only hit was the big three-run homer. McKewon (two hits), Judkins (three), Bemboom (two), and Brennan Murphy (two) all had multi-hit games for the Jays.
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