Baseball Advances to Los Angeles Regional Final; Down UNM 7-2
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Creighton baseball team has made its way
into the Los Angeles Regional Championship game, downing New Mexico 7-2 in the
elimination game on Sunday afternoon. The Bluejays (28-29) will take on
the No. 2-ranked Bruins tonight, with first pitch set for 9:00 pm CST. New Mexico ends
its season at 37-24 with the loss.
The Jays would need to beat UCLA tonight and tomorrow night (9 pm) to advance to the program's first Super Regional.
After Erik Mattingly used two deep fly balls and a blooped ball back to him on the mound to strand a New Mexico runner on first base in the top of the first, the Bluejays pushed across three runs in the frame, tying a season-high with five hits in the first. With one out, Nick Judkins singled through the right side and Chance Ross beat out an infield hit to put a pair of runners on the bases.
Anthony Bemboom then blasted a 2-1 pitch over the right field fence, hitting the Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility on the fly over the 350 foot fence. Bemboom's second home run of the season, his first since the March 17 games against North Dakota at the CU Sports Complex, was also the first for the Bluejays in the Los Angeles Regional.
Mike Gerber followed with a double to left center field, but pulled up between first and second with a hamstring injury. After a Scott Thornburg bloop single to right center that saw Gerber trot gingerly to third, the Bluejays replaced Gerber with Jordan Makovicka, runners on first and third base. A strike out swinging and ground out ended the first with Creighton leading 3-0.
Creighton had runners reach scoring position in both the second and third innings, a bunt single from Brennan Murphy and a double from Scott Thornburg in each inning, respectively, but UNM starting pitcher Josh Walker settled in to strand the runners.
Mattingly also found his groove in the second and third frames, walking one man in the second but retiring the side in order in the third. The Lobos broke through in the top of the fourth inning, using a leadoff double from Ben Woodchick, a passed ball and RBI single from Ryan Padilla to score the first run. Creighton led 3-1 heading to the bottom of the 4th.
The Bluejays responded and knocked UNM starting pitcher Josh Walker off the mound in the fourth inning, with a two-out rally. After Peter grounded out and Murphy lined out, McKewon drew a 10-pitch walk and advanced to third on a Judkins double, his eighth of the season. With a 1-2 count, Ross laced a ball right back up the middle, scoring both McKewon and a sliding in Judkins to give Creighton the 5-1 lead after four complete.
Another pair of two-out runs in the fifth inning gave Creighton the 7-2 lead after five innings. A Makovicka single to left field led off the inning, although he was forced out at second base on a Thornburg fielder's choice. A fly ball from Staehely and a walk to Jake Peter put another pair of runners on base with two outs for the Jays. Murphy then doubled to right field, pushing across the sixth and seventh runs of the game for Creighton.
Mattingly remained in the game into the top of the seventh inning, but walked a batter and allowed one to reach via error before the Bluejays brought in Reese McGraw. The outing for Mattingly, tying his second longest of his career behind his 9.0 no-hit bid against Indiana State, finished with six innings of work, three hits, one earned run and a pair of strikeouts.
McGraw came in to force a first pitch pop-up on a sacrifice bunt attempt and then get a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning without surrendering a run to the Lobos.
Lobos reliever Bobby Mares silenced the Bluejay bats in the second half of the game today, retiring seven batters in a row from the end of the fifth through the seventh, striking out four batters in that span.
Gabe Aguilar and Hobie McClain combined to continue the streak in the eighth, retiring the first two batters of the frame via strikeout before McKewon reached base with a two-out, hit-by-pitch. McKewon advanced to second on a wild pitch and Judkins drew a walk, but Ross grounded into an inning-ending groundout.
McGraw retired the final three batters in order in the ninth, using a strikeout, deep fly ball to McKewon in center and a line drive catch from Makovicka in left field to end the game.
NOTES: The Bluejays scored first for the second straight game, marking the 32nd time this season. Creighton is now 23-9 when scoring first and 16-5 when scoring in the first inning ... Erik Mattingly matched his second-longest appearance on the mound this season, also throwing 6.0 innings twice against Illinois State, 4/28 in the regular season and 5/24 in the MVC Tournament ... Jordan Makovicka replaced Mike Gerber in the bottom of the first inning, making his first appearance in the outfield since he started in outfield at Southern Illinois on April 22 ... It also marked Makovicka's first plate appearance since a pinch-hit outing against Nebraska-Omaha on May 9 of this season ... Jake Peter's error in the top of the fifth inning is just the first for Creighton in four straight games, dating back to the May 24 game against Illinois State in the MVC Tournament. It is just the second error in eight games for the Bluejays after the team committed eight combined errors in six straight games ... Jordan Makovicka's single in the fifth inning marked his first single of the year. His only other hit of the year was a double in the April 21 game at Southern Illinois ... Brennan Murphy now has seven RBI in the last 12 games. He has 12 total RBI this season ... The double for Murphy was his third in the last eight games.