Creighton Takes Regular-Season Finale From Bears, 6-3
May 18, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. - Creighton scored three unearned runs in the third inning without the aid of a single hit to take control of the rubber match in its final Missouri Valley Conference series with Missouri State Saturday afternoon, ultimately cruising to a 6-3 decision over the Bears at TD Ameritrade Park. Despite outhitting the 'Jays by a 10-7 margin, the Bears (30-21, 12-9 MVC) failed to score four runs for the 11th time in their last 14 outings in dropping their second-consecutive Valley series.
After playing error-free baseball over the first 20 innings of the series, the Bears' lone error of the series proved to be a costly one in the bottom half of the third. With two on and nobody out, MSU starter Andy Cheray fielded Alex Steahely's bunt attempt and appeared to have a play on the lead runner at third, but the freshman's throw sailed over the head of Joey Hawkins to allow the tying and go-ahead runs to cross the plate. Two batters later, Kevin Lamb extended the CU lead with a sacrifice fly to center, handing the Bluejays the largest advantage for either club to that point in the series at 4-2.
From there, four Creighton relievers would hold the MSU offense in check to hand the Bluejays their 30th win of the season.
With the setback, the Bears wrapped up the conference season with a fourth-place league finish, just one game behind Creighton (30-16, 13-8 MVC) in the standings. MSU will move on to face No. 5 seed Evansville Tuesday (May 21) at 4 p.m. in the opening round of the 2013 MVC Championship in Normal, Ill.
After watching Creighton grab early leads with first-inning tallies in each of the first two games of the series, it was the Bears' turn to jump on top Saturday. Tate Matheny got the ball rolling for MSU with double to left-center following a 10-pitch battle with Bluejay starter Mark Winkelman. Spencer Johnson's grounder to short moved Matheny to third before Luke Voit cashed in with a solid single to left to chase home Matheny and give the Bears a 1-0 edge.
Creighton used s similar formula to even things up in the bottom of the second. Lamb initiated the Bluejay rally with a line drive double into the gap in right-center with one out, then advanced to third on Brennan Murphy's bouncer to second. Playing in just his 16th game of the season, Ben Lahn delivered a run-scoring single to right to bring in Lamb to make it a 1-1 game.
MSU answered in its next at-bat, using back-to-back singles from Hawkins an Eric Cheray to set up the go-ahead rally. CU reliever Matt Warren nearly escaped without incurring any damage, as Matheny failed to get a bunt attempt down -- the first of two misfires on sacrifice attempts with two on and nobody out -- and Johnson fanned for the second out. But Voit came through with his second clutch hit of the afternoon, driving an RBI single up the middle to put the Bears in front once again.
The Bears pulled back to within one run in the top of the sixth after Voit singled for the third time to start the inning, and Conor Smith added a base hit to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But once again, a failed bunt attempt would derail MSU's shot at a big inning when Keenen Maddox popped up to the catcher. Travis McComack drew a hit by pitch from Nick Highberger to load the bases, and a wild pitch allowed Voit to trot home before a fly ball from Dylan Becker and a bouncer to short by Cheray ended the inning.
That would be the Bears' last shot at a comeback, as CU responded with a two runs in the bottom of the sixth on Jake Peter's two-out, two-run double.
MSU put runners on base in each of the final three innings, only to strand each one in scoring position. Highberger, Taylor Elman and Bryan Sova would combine to blank the Bears on just two hits over the final four frames, striking out four in the process.
Warren (3-3) was credited with the win after allowing one run on four MSU hits over three innings after Sova worked a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save of the season and wrap up the No. 3 seed in next week's MVC Championship for Creighton.
Peter and Fowler led CU's offense with two hits apiece, while Lahn reached base in three of his four trips to the plate to provide a spark for the Bluejays.
Cheray (1-4) was saddled with the loss for Missouri State after yielding the first four Creighton runs -- only one of which was earned -- on three hits and three walks over two-plus innings. The Bears received solid relief work from left-handers Tyler Burgess (3.0 IP) and Matt Hall (1.2), who combined to post 4 2/3 scoreless innings over which CU managed just one hit.
Voit paced the Bears' offense with a 3-for-5 day at the plate, and Matheny added two hits as well for his 24th multi-hit effort of the season.
The Missouri Valley Conference Championship will kick off Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. from Illinois State's Duffy Bass Field and continue through Saturday's title game, which will be televised live on Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Indiana, Fox Sports Kansas City, Fox College Sports, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Metro Sports.
Fans can also follow the MVC Baseball Championship on ESPN3 (www.espn3.com) for all games played on May 21 through May 24. ESPN3 - ESPN's web-based platform - will have all 12 (or 14, including if-necessary games) of the tournament for ESPN3 for all games leading into the televised final on FSN.