Baseball Holds Off Illinois State Comeback Bid to Win 6-5

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Alex Staehely
Courtesy: Dennis Hubbard

NORMAL, Ill. - In the rubber match between the battle of the birds, Creighton (22-7, 2-1) held off a come back bid by the Redbirds (21-9, 1-2) in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the conference win, taking two-of-three games.  Creighton's Kurt Spomer picked up his third save today, after earning his second save yesterday.  The right hander struck out the final batter of the game for the Redbirds to secure the Bluejay victory.

After a scoreless half inning for the Jays, the Redbirds got on the board in the bottom of the first.  It marked the first time in the three game series the Redbirds struck first, putting up two runs on two hits in the frame.  ISU also picked up two free tickets, a walk and a hit by pitch from starter Greg Hellhake.  Kevin Tokarski led off the game with a single to left field.  He advanced to second on a hit-and-run ground out to Nick Judkins, with the only play being at first.  A walk to Tyler McNeely and a ground out to Alex Staehely left two outs and runners on second and third.  Matt Mirabal picked up his second base hit of the series, driving a single through the left side to knock in both runs.

Creighton answered in the top of the second, scoring three runs on three hits, chasing Redbirds starter Ryan Camp off the mound.  Alex Staehely picked up his third hit of the series, and third of his career against the Redbirds, to lead off the second.  Anthony Bemboom was then hit by pitch on the attempted sacrifice bunt, the second day in a row a Bluejay has been hit in that situation (Joey Bowens yesterday).  A Scott Thornburg single to left field drove in Staehely and advanced Bemboom to third base.  Chance Ross then picked up his second hit of the weekend, first RBI, driving in Bemboom with a blooper over the third baseman's head.

The Jays put one more on the board in the inning, picking up the early 3-2 lead.  Michael Mutcheson was hit by a pitch, the second of the inning, followed by a sacrifice fly to right field by Judkins scoring Thornburg.  Ross and Mutcheson advanced a base on an errant throw by the left fielder, but would be stranded at third and second, respectively.

Alex Staehely picked up his second hit of the game to lead off the third inning, a single pulled down the left field line.  Staehely then stole second and advanced to third on the throw to second, which hit the dirt in front of second and skipped to center field.  Bemboom drove in his second RBI of the weekend on a sacrifice fly to right field.  Creighton held a 4-2 lead after three innings of play.

After a shaky first inning, Hellhake settled in on the mound, allowing just one hit in the next three innings.  With the help of a defensive 6-4-3 double play, Hellhake and the Jays retired nine straight batters through the fourth inning.  Hellhake used the help of his defense through those innings, picking up four ground balls and and four fly outs, while not striking out any batters.

The middle three frames turned into a pitchers duel, as Illinois State's Dan Savas, who came on in relief in the second inning, baffled the Bluejay batters with his pitching, mixing in off-speed pitches and sliders to throw off the Bluejay bats.  Savas struck out a career high nine batters in the middle three frames, all of which were swinging.  Hellhake remained on the mound until the sixth, when the Jays brought in Chase Webb after Hellhake walked the lead off batter.  Hellhake finished the day with 5.0 innings, giving up two earned runs on three hits, allowing just two walks. 

Webb had a rough outing, allowing two walks and forcing a fly-out to Judkins in foul territory before being replaced by Jack VanLeur.  With the bases loaded, VanLeur forced a pop out to Ross at third and a sky high pop out to Staehely to end the threat, stranding three Redbirds on the bases.

Creighton was shut down until the eighth, when they put together another scoring threat.  Adams led off with a single to right field, his first of the day, and then stole second on the strike out by Staehely.  A walk to Bemboom put runners on first and second before the Jays did a double steal on the Thornburg strike out.  An intentional walk to Gerber loaded the bases, before Ross grounded out to the second baseman to end the threat.

The ninth inning proved to be a wild one, giving the two fans their money worth on the day.  The Jays put up two runs in the top of the ninth.  Mutcheson and Judkins were hit by a pitch back-to-back to put runners on first and second.  The duo advanced to second and third on a wild pitch that went behind Swift at the plate.  Another wild pitch allowed Mutcheson to score and Judkins to advance to third.  Swift then picked up a walk and was followed by a sac bunt by Staehely, scoring Judkins when the pitcher couldn't field it cleanly.  Creighton led 6-2 going into the bottom of the ninth.

The Jays brought in Mark Winkelman to pitch for VanLeur, and he picked up two quick outs with a fly foul down the left field line and a strike out swinging.  Then the Redbirds put together a three run rally on two outs.  Kevin Tokarski hit a solo home run over the left field fence to bring the game to 6-3.  That was followed with a Fallon triple and a McNeely double to bring the score to 6-4.  The Jays brought in Spomer with two outs and a runner on second.  Court doubled over Gerber's head in center to put the tying run on second base.  With two outs and a 3-2 count, Spomer threw an inside pitch that Matt Mirabal swung at as he was hit by the pitch.  With a heads up play, Bemboom picked up the ball and threw it down to first to secure the final out of the game, and the 6-5 win for the Jays.

Creighton finished the day with seven hits, led by Staehely with two.  He also had two runs scored.  The Redbirds had nine hits in the game, with Tokarski, Fallon and McNeely each picking up two.

The Jays return home for a mid-week game against Kansas State.  The Tuesday game will be the final game played at the CU Sports Complex, as the Jays travel to Indiana State next weekend and then open TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on the 19th hosting the Nebraska Huskers.

Quick Hits: Greg Hellhake put together another impressive outing, working out of a jam after the first inning to throw four more scoreless innings.  In the fifth inning, his last full inning of work, Hellhake threw just four pitches.  It is the first time for a CU pitcher since Otto Roberts accomplished the feat at Air Force in 2009... Trever Adams' single in the eighth inning, his first of the game, moved his hitting streak to 13 straight games.  That marks the longest of any Bluejay this season... Creighton struck out a season high 15 times on Sunday, including 12 off Redbirds reliever Dan Savas, who had just 25 coming into the game... Ed Servais now holds an 18-6 record over Illinois State, including 11-1 record in Normal... Batters 6-9 for the Redbirds were a combined 1-for-12 on the day... Creighton batters were hit by pitch while attempting to sacrifice bunt three times on the weekend, including twice in the game Sunday.  The Jays reached base by virtue of the hit by pitch nine times this weekend... Creighton left 10 runners on base in Sunday's game, pushing the total to 26 on the weekend... Kurt Spomer finished the day with 0.1 innings pitched, giving up one hit and striking out one to end the game.

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