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Tommy Clouthier
Courtesy: Steven Branscombe

9th Inning Heroics Lead Baseball Past Bears in Final MVC Series Opener

OMAHA, Neb. - Sophomore Kevin Lamb's single to center capped a two-run ninth inning, lifting Creighton Baseball to a 4-3, walk-off victory over Missouri State on Thursday, May 15th at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Just as they did four times in span of eight days in 2011 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, Creighton (29-15, 12-7 MVC) would win a close game vs. Missouri State (29-20, 11-8 MVC) with some late game heroics.

After giving up a run in the top of the frame, Creighton went to bat in the ninth down 3-2.  Freshman Reagan Fowler opened the inning with a single to center, then moved into scoring position on senior Brennan Murphy's bunt single that followed. Both Fowler and Murphy would advance on a sacrifice bunt by senior Michael Blatchford that resulted in the first out. 

Freshman Tommy Clouthier was then called on to pinch-hit. After falling behind 0-2, Clouthier worked the count to 2-2, fighting off three foul balls against Missouri State's Erik Shannahan before lifting a sac fly to center, scoring Fowler without a throw.

The drama continued with Lamb also falling behind 0-2, but the Oklahoma native roped a single to center and third-base coach Spencer Allen sent the speedy Murphy, A head-first slide by Murphy narrowly beat the throw from centerfielder Tate Matheny, to give Creighton the victory.

The Jays got out to a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a leadoff single from junior Brad McKewon, productive outs by junior Federico Castagnini and sophomore Jake Peter, and an RBI double by senior Alex Staehely.

On a limited pitch count with the MVC Tournament scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Creighton starter freshman Tommy Strunc cruised through the opening five frames.  Strunc, however, ran into a bit of trouble in the sixth due to back-to-back walks.  Junior Bryan Sova came on with runners at first and second, but was greeted with a sac bunt, sac fly and a single to give the Bears a 2-1 edge.

The Bluejays, however, bounced right back to tie the game at 2-2 in their next at-bat as McKewon laced a one-out double to left-center and Peter bounced an RBI single into center.

The walk-off win went to senior Mark Winkelman (6-0), who had entered with two outs in the ninth inning in relief of Sova. Despite giving up two hits, Winkelman escaped a bases loaded jam in the ninth, to keep Creighton in position for the dramatic win. Sova allowed just one hit in 3.2 innings of relief.

Missouri State's Shannahan took the loss (2-1), getting tagged for both runs in the ninth on three hits. Shannahan entered the game in a bases loaded situation in the eighth, retiring Staehely to keep it a 2-2 contest at the time.

MSU had five hits on the day, including a go-ahead single from pinch-hitter Conor Smith versus Winkelman in the ninth inning to score Kennen Maddox on a disputed play at the plate. Bears' ace Nick Petree allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings of work but did not factor in the decision. The 2012 Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year allowed two or more earned runs for just the seventh time in 29 starts in the past two seasons.

McKewon led Creighton's offense with a 3-for-4 day, his seventh game this season with three hits (in order: a single, double and a triple). Murphy was the Bluejays' only other player with multiple hits, reaching on a pair of bunt singles in the seventh and ninth innings.

Creighton and Missouri State will continue the series on Friday night at 7 pm in a game with more than 15,000 fans expected as part of Military Day.

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