In game seven of the State Farm MVC Baseball Championship, No. 8 Creighton downed No. 4 Illinois State, 11-5. The Bluejays will face the winner of tomorrow morning’s Evansville vs. Illinois State, scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The Bluejay offense was led by Mike Gerber, who finished 4-5 from the plate with three runs driven in and two runs scored. It marks his first four-hit game of his Bluejay career, highlighted by his team-leading fourth home run in the third inning.
Shane Liska did his part in the game as well, tying his career-best with 6.0 innings of work, surrendering just two runs and striking out six batters.
Creighton advances to play in the semifinal of the A Bracket in this years tournament. The Bluejays will play the winner of Evansville and Illinois State (Thursday at 9 am) tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch set for 4:00 pm.
The Bluejays got on the board first, thanks in part to mother nature. With one out in the second inning, Alex Staehely singled to left field. A pop out to left field gave the Bluejays a pair of outs in the frame. Brennan Murphy beat out an infield single to put a pair of runners on base, followed by a pop-up on the infield that should have been the final out of the inning.
But the near 20 mph wind blew the ball away from Illinois State first baseman Kyle Stanton, falling just out of his reach as Staehely came around the base paths to score the first run of the game.
Illinois State got to Bluejay starting pitcher Liska in the top of the third inning, pushing across two runs on three hits. Liska struck out Stanton to lead off the frame before the Redbirds picked up three-straight hits, singles from Brett Kay and Chad Hinshaw and a double from Ty Wiesemeyer pushed across the first run.
A walk with a wild pitch to Zac Johnson allowed Kay to score from third and put runners on the corners with just one out for the Redbirds. A long run from Brad McKewon to track down a fly out in foul ground picked up the second out of the inning before Liska got a deep fly out to Gerber to end the inning. Illinois State led 2-1 after two and a half.
But the Bluejays battled right back to reclaim the lead in the home half of the third. With one out, Scott Thornburg walked before Gerber pulled his team-leading fourth home run of the year to the right center field power alley, pushing Creighton back ahead 3-2.
Liska settled down after the two-run third inning, retiring nine of the next 10 batters. He put the Redbirds down in order in the fourth and sixth innings, with a single strikeout in each of those frames. Liska surrendered a two out double in the fifth inning, but picked up all three outs with strikeouts in the frame.
Creighton extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, adding a pair of runs, one unearned, to take a 5-2 lead after four complete innings. Murphy led off the inning with a bunt single, advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt from McKewon. Nick Judkins drove a single back up the middle to score Murphy for the first run of the frame.
A Ross pop-up led to a Bemboom single to right field, putting runners on the corners for the Jays. Thornburg then reached safely on a fielder’s choice, hitting a ground ball to the Redbirds third baseman who threw wide of second base trying to make the easy play. Judkins scored before Bemboom overslid the base at second, the final out of the frame.
Creighton added another run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Gerber led off the inning with a single up the middle, advancing to second with a Staehely sacrifice bunt. Jake Peter then singled up the middle, driving in his first RBI of the tournament to put Creighton up 6-2.
A two-out rally in the seventh inning gave Creighton its final three runs of the game. McKewon singled to left center to lead off the inning, advancing to third on a Judkins single through the right side. Four pitches later, Ross blasted a ball over the left field fence the game to 11-2 after seven complete.
Illinois State scored one run off Bluejay reliever Reese McGraw in the eighth inning and two off Kurt Spomer in the ninth, bringing the final score to 11-5.
Liska earned his second win of the season, tying his career high with 6.0 innings on the mound. He struck out six batters, surrendering just one walk and five hits. He retired 11 of the final 12 men he faced to reach base safely.
Creighton out hit the Redbirds 16-10 on the night, led by Gerber’s 4-5 day, driving in three runs and scoring two of his own. Judkins went 3-3 with three runs scored and a run driven in, and McKewon, Bemboom and Murphy had two hits a piece.