LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Creighton baseball team resembled the Bluejay team that won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament last week, putting up eight runs on 11 hits in an 8-2 win over San Diego on Saturday. The win advances the Bluejays (27-29) to the third day of the Los Angeles Regional, ending the season for the Toreros (40-17).
Creighton will match up with the loser of tonight's winners bracket game between New Mexico and host UCLA. First pitch of the Bluejays game tomorrow will be at 5:00 pm CST. The Jays would then need to defeat tonight's winner on both Sunday and Monday night at 9 pm CST to advance to the first Super Regional in program history.
The Bluejays pushed across their first runs of the Los Angeles Regional in the home half of the first inning, using three hits to score a pair of runs. Brad McKewon led off the inning with a walk, advancing to third on Nick Judkins single to right center field. Chance Ross then drove in his 32nd RBI of the season with looping single into center. With one out, Mike Gerber gave Creighton a 2-0 lead with a single to left field. A ground ball double-play ended the first, Creighton holding an early lead.
Creighton chased USD starting pitcher Paul Sewald off the mound in the second inning, twice loading the bases in the frame. With one out, Jake Peter drew a walk and advanced to second on a Brennan Murphy single to right field. McKewon was hit by a pitch to load the bases full of Jays before Judkins drove in his first RBI of the weekend with a single to center. Peter scored but Murphy was cut down trying to score from second on the play.
Ross then reloaded the bags full of Bluejays with a single through the left side, forcing USD to bring in Max MacNabb, who forced a fly ball down the left field line to end the frame with Creighton holding a 3-0 lead.
Bluejay starting pitcher Shane Liska dominated the USD batters through the first two innings, allowing just one man to reach via a walk. He ran into his first trouble in the third inning, when he surrendered a pair of free bases, first by walking Dillon Haupt and then hitting Jon Hotta. With a fly out sandwiched between the free bases, Liska got himself and his defense out of the inning with a great defensive play from Staehely, who caught a line drive and flipped to second for an inning-ending double play.
Liska surrendered his first hit in the top of the fourth inning, surrendering a leadoff triple to USD All-American Kris Bryant. A ground out by Connor Joe scored the first run for the Toreros in the LA Regional, pulling USD within 3-1 in the fourth.
But the Bluejays responded immediately and did even more damage in the bottom of the fourth. Creighton took advantage of two walks and two hit by pitches, coupled with a pair of Bluejay hits surrendered by James Pazos giving the Bluejays a 6-1 lead after four.
Peter led off the inning with a six-pitch walk, moving to second when Murphy was hit by a pitch. A McKewon sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position and the Jays loaded the bases when Judkins was hit by a pitch. Peter came in to score when Ross was walked on five pitches.
Bemboom then picked up an infield single, beating out a play on a ball that bounced over the first baseman's head, and allowing Murphy to score. With the bases still loaded, Gerber grounded into a fielder's choice that erased Judkins at home. Thornburg drove in the final run of the frame with a single to right field to score Ross before USD first baseman robbed Staehely of extra bases by snagging a line drive for the final out of the inning.
Liska again found himself in a jam in the fifth inning, but once again managed to work through it without surrendering a run. With two outs, Liska surrendered back-to-back singles to Hotta and Lechich, both to the right side of the field, before forcing Bryant to fly out to center field.
Creighton put together a two-out rally in the fifth inning to extend its lead to 8-1. With a pair of outs, McKewon and Judkins ripped back-to-back singles through the infield and Ross picked up a four-pitch walk to again load the bases. Bemboom then singled up the middle, scoring both Judkins and McKewon before Bemboom was caught out trying to advance to second on the play.
Liska turned the ball over to Chase Webb to start the sixth inning, and Webb silenced the Toreros with two perfect innings of work. Webb struck out three batters in his 31st appearance of the season.
Judkins led the Bluejays offensively on the day, finishing 3-4 from the plate with a run scored and one driven in. Ross and Bemboom each had two hits, Ross scoring twice and driving in two and Bemboom finishing with three runs driven in.
NOTES: Shane Liska finished his outing with 5.0 innings of work, surrendering one earned run on three hits. He walked three batters and struck out two in the 21 batters he faced ... It marks the sixth start this season where Liska has allowed one or no earned runs in his outing (he has eight starts this year) ... The Jays are now 15-5 when scoring in the first inning this season and 22-9 when scoring before its opponent ... Nick Judkins is now 6-10 this season when at the plate with the bases loaded ... The Bluejays are now 1-0 all-time against San Diego, as Saturday's win marked the first meeting between the two teams ... Chance Ross extended his streak of reaching base safely to 14 consecutive games when he walked in the first inning ... The Bluejays join Missouri State as Missouri Valley Conference teams to win at least one game in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Bears avoided elimination by downing their host Miami in the Coral Gables Regional. Indiana State was eliminated today, going 0-2 in the Eugene Regional.