The Creighton baseball team will be going dancing in the NCAA Tournament next weekend after winning its second straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship with an 8-6 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday night. The Bluejays complete the sweep in Springfield, going 4-0 en route to the tournament title.
The Bluejays overcame a pair of deficits on the night, first at 4-0 and then at 5-1. Creighton’s largest previous comeback win this season came on March 2, 2012, when they trailed UC Davis 3-0 and came back to win 7-6.
Creighton head coach Ed Servais has now won all three of the programs MVC Tournament titles, winning in 2007, 2011 and now in 2012.
The Bluejays become the lowest seed (No. 8) to win the conference tournament. Illinois State won the tournament in 1994 as a No. 6 seed.
For the first time this tournament, the Bluejays fell behind when Jordan Sivertsen opened the second inning with a towering home run to center field. Blach retired the next two batters before SIU picked up another hit and a walk to put a pair of base runners on. The Bluejay ace then struck out Rennie Troggio to strand a pair of Salukis on the bases.
The SIU offense then took advantage of four infield base hits and a two-out double off the bat of Brian Bajer to push across three runs in the top half of the third inning.
Creighton scratched out a run in the bottom of the third inning, scoring a single run to pull back within three. Brennan Murphy led off the frame with a double down the right field line, but stood his ground on back-to-back fly outs to the outfield. Chance Ross then singled up the middle, driving in his ninth RBI of the tournament.
Shane Liska made his second appearance of the tournament, coming in for relief of Blach in the top of the fourth inning. SIU welcomed Liska by putting up another tally in the runs column. Another infield hit, this time a Tanner Renner bunt, allowed the Salukis to use a sacrifice bunt and infield ground out to move Renner to third before he scored on a Liska wild pitch.
But the Bluejays again clawed back in the home half of the fourth. With one out, Mike Gerber singled to right field and advanced to second on an error by SIU’s Renner. Alex Staehely was hit by a pitch to put a pair of Bluejays on the base paths. A fielder’s choice allowed Gerber to advance third and Jake Peter to reach first safely.
Murphy then ripped a ball back up the middle for his second hit of the game, driving in Creighton’s second run, but a fly out to left field would strand a pair of Jays runners, Creighton trailing 5-2 after 4.0 complete.
Chase Webb silenced the heart of the Saluki lineup in the top of the fifth, striking out 3-4-5 hitters Chris Serritella, Jordan Sivertsen and Austin Montgomery. The Bluejays took advantage in their half of the inning, scoring two runs to pull within one run. Judkins led off the frame picking up the first walk from Forsythe, advancing to second on a Ross single through the left side.
Bemboom then caught a break with his RBI double, as SIU center fielder Rennie Troggio lost the ball in the lights, allowing Judkins to score. A ground out on the infield from Thornburg pushed across Creighton’s second run of the inning, pulling the Jays within one.
The bottom of the Saluki pushed across yet another SIU run in the sixth inning. Bajer doubled down the left field line, advancing to third on a Donny Duchinsky ground out and scored when Renner singled to center field. The Bluejays were held scoreless in the home half of the sixth, SIU holding a 6-4 lead after six frames.
The Bluejays took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, stringing together four hits to push across four runs. Judkins doubled to left center to lead off the inning and Ross picked up an infield hit for the Bluejays to put runners at the corners. Bemboom drove in the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to left field.
A Thornburg walk put a pair of runners on base before Gerber picked up his third hit of the game, scoring Ross and leaving a pair of Bluejays in scoring position. The Salukis brought in Matt Murphy to pitch, with Murphy retiring the first batter he faced. But a two-RBI single from Peter scored a pair of runs to give Creighton the 8-6 lead after 7.0.
Winkelman, Reese McGraw and Kurt Spomer combined to finish the final 3.0 innings of the ball game, surrendering just one hit. Winkelman picked up just his second win of the season, improving to 2-1 with the win, while Spomer earned his third save of the year.
Following the game, Creighton’s Mike Gerber was named to the All-Tournament team, joined by a host of other Bluejays, listed below
1B- Chris Serritella, Southern Illinois
2B – Jake Peter, Creighton
SS – Eric Cheray, Missouri State
3B – Chance Ross, Creighton
C – Brian Bajer, Southern Illinois
UT – Nick Judkins, Creighton
DH – Keenen Maddox, Missouri State
OF – Mike Gerber, Creighton (MVP)
OF – Chad Hinshaw, Illinois State
OF – Brennan Murphy, Creighton
P – Todd Eaton, Southern Illinois
P – Cody Schumacher, Missouri State