OMAHA, Neb. - For just the second time in school history the Creighton baseball team ends the Missouri Valley Tournament as champions, defeating Wichita State 3-1 on Saturday night. Creighton's pitching staff allowed just four hits on the day, surrendering the only run in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Jays win the first MVC Tournament title since 2007, earning the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Creighton (44-14) battled through the losers bracket to make it to the championship, defeating Missouri State twice to earn the right to play for the title. The Jays will learn their fate for the field of 64 on Monday at 11:30 am Central with a selection show put on by the NCAA.
Creighton won the title for the second time in school history, with both wins now coming over the Shockers. The Jays are 2-6-1 against WSU all-time in tournament title games, winning 10-9 in 2007 and 3-1 on Saturday. Both of Creighton's wins have been in the only two of those games played outside of Wichita.
The Bluejays got on the board first on Saturday, scoring two runs in the opening frame for the second night in a row. Nick Judkins was the first Bluejay to reach base on the night, picked up a one out hit by pitch from Shocker starter Charlie Lowell. A single to right field by Jimmy Swift advanced Judkins to second, while a single through the 5-6 hole on the left side by Trever Adams plated Creighton's first run of the game. Alex Staehely lined out to right field before Scott Thornburg put a ball into left field, plating Swift and giving the Jays the early 2-0 lead.
Jonas Dufek, named the MVC Tournament MVP, started the game for the Bluejays on just two days rest, the quickest turn-around this season. The Omaha native opened the game by striking out Wichita State's first two batters before allowing back-to-back singles to Chris O'Brien and Preston Springer. Dufek forced a fly-out to Adams in right field to close the first frame and was even more effective in the second inning, retiring the side in order.
Dufek continued into the third inning, mowing down five batters on strike outs during his 2.2 innings of work. The senior allowed just two hits in his work on the mound before being relieved by Ty Blach, after reaching a pre-determined pitch count. The Jays opted to bring in Blach to face Wichita State's best hitter, left-handed Chris O'Brien, the MVC Player of the Year. Creighton's south paw struck out O'Brien, leaving the Jays ahead 2-0 through three.
Lowell and the Shocker defense settled down after the first, retiring eight of the next 10 batters in order, including four straight strikeouts. The MVC Pitcher of the Year allowed just two men to reach base through the second, third and fourth innings, a walk to Adams and an error on an Anthony Bemboom ball hit to WSU shortstop Tyler Grimes.
Creighton put up a single tally in the fifth inning, adding insurance runs against the very talented Shocker team. Mike Gerber reached with an infield single, beating out the throw from WSU shortstop Grimes. A sacrifice bunt by Ross advanced Gerber to second and a single to right field put the runners on the corners. Swift then drove in his first run of the day with a sacrifice fly to center field, deep enough to score Gerber from third.
The Bluejay bullpen was stellar on the day, allowing just four hits to the Shockers and not surrendering a run until the bottom of the eighth inning. Blach came out of the bullpen for the first time this season, finishing his day with 3.2 innings of work and striking out five. He allowed just one batter to reach second base on the day, retiring the first seven batters he faced. Reese McGraw took over for Blach in the seventh inning, throwing a full inning of work while allowing a single run and striking out one.
Lowell was pulled after the sixth inning, surrendering six hits, three earned runs and striking out six Jays. The WSU bullpen retired the Jays in order the last three innings, but Creighton wouldn't need the extra runs in the end.
Kurt Spomer came in to earn his 13th save of the season, striking out the first two batters of the ninth before a ground ball to Swift at third ended the game, sending the Bluejays into a dogpile just behind the pitchers mound.
The Jays ended the day with six hits, scoring three runs. No single Bluejay had more than a single hit, with Judkins, Swift, Adams, Thornburg, Bemboom and Gerber each getting a hit in the game. Dufek picked up his 11th win of the season, improving to 11-1 while Spomer picked up his 13th save, now second-most in Bluejay single-season history.
The Jays will learn their match-up and Regionals destination on Monday, May 30th, at 11:30 am local time. The Creighton baseball team and Athletic Department invites all fans to join them at the DJ's Dugout Downtown location for a viewing party.
Quick Hits: Jonas Dufek now leads the Bluejays and Missouri Valley Conference with 11 wins this season, tied for fourth nationaly... Jonas Dufek finished the game with 2.2 innings pitched, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five... Saturday's game was a complete turn around from the first time Ty Blach and Charlie Lowell matched up. Blach gave up a career high 6 earned runs in that game, while Lowell threw a complete game shutout. On Saturday night, Blach finished with 3.2 innings of work and five K's, while Lowell surrendered all three Bluejay runs in his 6.0 innings of work... Blach also struck out Chris O'Brien of Wichita State twice on the day, the first time the senior has done that since the beginning of March... Four Bluejays were named to the MVC All-Tournament team, as Clay Cuno and Trever Adams were named outfielders on the team and Greg Hellhake was two of just three pitchers along with Jonas Dufek, who was named the 2011 State Farm MVC Tournament MVP... Ty Blach was named the MVC Elite 18 Award winner for baseball, which honors the highest participating student-athlete at a Valley conference championship. He joins Alicia Montgomery (women's soccer) as the other Creighton student-athlete to earn the honor... Creighton's Reese McGraw, Jack VanLeur and Kurt Spomer have thrown in the last three games, while Jack VanLeur has done relief work in two of the last three. Spomer finished the tournament with four appearances, not surrendering a single run and earning three saves... Jonas Dufek is the only pitcher in the tournament to pick up two wins, finishing with a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 innings of work... Creighton finished the MVC Tournament 5-1, defeating Missouri State twice and Bradley, Southern Illinois and Wichita State once for the championship... Three Bluejays finished the tournament hitting over .300, led by senior Clay Cuno, who started four of the five games after not starting a single game all season. He finished with a .429 average, picking up five doubles for a .786 slugging percentage. Trever Adams hit .316 and Gabriel Thibodeaux finished the tournament hitting .300... The 2011 season marks the 20-year anniversary of Creighton's 1991 College World Series team. The Jays met up with the Shockers in the MVC Tournament title that season, with WSU earning the win... The 6,939 fans to see the game on Saturday night sits second on the all-time lists in MVC Tournament play. The only larger crowd was in 1991, when the Jays and Shockers met at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita, Kan., before 7,212 fans.