The top-seeded Creighton Bluejays took the opening game of the BIG EAST Tournament, 9-2 over No. 4 Xavier, on Thursday, May 22. The win moved Creighton to 31-16-1 overall, while Xavier fell to 26-27.
The Bluejays will face the winner of the No. 2 St. John’s vs. No. 3 Seton Hall contest on Friday, May 23 at 6 pm (CT).
Starting pitchers Matt Warren and Scott Klever (Xavier) worked quickly through the first four frames in a misty mid-afternoon contest. In the top of the fifth the Musketeers appeared to be in position to take the lead as Brian Bruening drew a leadoff walk and moved to second via a wild pitch. Warren, however, was able to bear down to strike out the next two hitters and end the frame with a groundout.
Warren’s effort gave the Bluejay offense the lift it needed in the bottom half as freshman Nicky Lopez bounced a single up the middle, then junior Landon Lucansky drew a four-pitch walk to put runners at first and second. Senior Cody Kottich followed with a sacrifice, then senior Brad McKewon blasted a two-run triple to give Creighton a 2-0 edge.
The next batter, sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald, pushed Creighton’s edge to 3-0 with a sac fly to center. Creighton continued to attack Klever as junior Jake Peter walked, then senior Mike Gerber and sophomore Reagan Fowler stroked singles to tack on an additional run.
Xavier answered with two runs in the sixth to chase Warren, but senior Bryan Sova limited the damage by getting an inning-ending double play to send the game to the bottom of the sixth with Creighton leading, 4-2.
After two quick outs in the sixth, Kottich worked a full-count walk to ignite another Bluejay two-out rally. McKewon sent Kottich to second as he stroked a single up the middle, then Fitzgerald loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk. Peter quickly got ahead 3-0, but Klever delivered two strikes to bring the count full. Peter pounced on the payoff pitch, slicing a three-run triple into left field. Gerber put a bow on the inning by blasting the first pitch of his at-bat over the right field wall to make it 9-2.
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Creighton’s bullpen cruised through the final three innings to secure the win. Warren nabbed the win (10-1), allowing two runs on four hits in five innings of work. Klever took the loss (6-6) for Xavier, allowing nine runs on 10 hits and four walks in 5.2 innings.
Offensively the Bluejays got three hits, two RBI and two runs scored from McKewon, while Peter and Gerber each posted two hits in the game.