Baseball Meets Georgia in Elimination Game

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Greg Hellhake
Courtesy: Eric Francis

Creighton Baseball (45-15) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (32-31)
Updated Notes - June 5, 2011
NCAA Tournament -- Corvallis Regional - Corvallis, Ore.
Radio: KOZN (1620 AM) - Video:

Creighton will look to duplicate its MVC Tournament title run from last week, where it won its first game, lost its second game (with Ty Blach on the mound), and won four more games through the loser's bracket to take the title. For Creighton to win the Corvallis Regional this weekend, it will need to beat Georgia at 3 pm Central on Sunday afternoon, beat No. 13 Oregon State at 8 pm Central on Sunday night, and topple Oregon State again on Monday night at 8 pm Central.

Creighton is 4-0 in elimination games this season, beating Southern Illinois, Missouri State (twice) and Wichita State while working its way through the loser's bracket in last week's MVC Tournament. The Creighton pitching staff owns a 1.85 ERA in those four elimination games, while the defense has fielded at a .994 clip in those same contests.

Creighton is looking to reach a Regional final for just the third time in program history. Creighton went 4-0 to win the West Regional (at USC) in 1991, and went 2-2 to finish runner-up in the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional in 2005.

Creighton fell to 13-17 all-time in NCAA Tournament play with yesterday's 5-1 loss to Oregon State. Head coach Ed Servais is now 4-5 during three NCAA Tournament appearances as coach of Creighton.

Now in his eighth season at the helm, Ed Servais owns 299 career wins at Creighton and can reach 300 victories with a win on Sunday vs. Georgia. He is the winningest baseball coach in school history.

Creighton has played its best in pressure-packed situations all season long. The Bluejays are 19-6 in one-run games and a perfect 6-0 in extra inning contests. The Jays have won eight straight decisions with final margins of two runs or less dating to May 13th.

Creighton was one of the rare No. 2 seeds to win on Friday, as No. 2 seeds went 5-11 against third-seeds on the opening day of the postseason. Saturday was better, as No. 2 seeds went 8-8. Heading into Sunday, two No.2 seeds are 2-0 (Baylor & Stanford), nine are 1-1, and five other No. 2 seeds went 0-2 and have been eliminated (Oklahoma State, Fresno State, Southern Miss, Oklahoma and Florida International)

Creighton has trailed in 21 of its 45 victories this season, and twice Creighton has rallied from six runs down to win games this season. The Jays trailed New Mexico 6-0 in an eventual 8-7, 11-inning win at New Mexico on Feb. 27th, and trailed 6-0 before beating Bradley 16-6 in seven innings on May 1st. Creighton trailed 1-0 in the seventh inning on Friday until coming back for a 2-1 triumph.

If there is one thing Creighton has proven in the past two weeks, it is that it doesn't need to score big to win. Creighton is 11-3 in its last 14 games despite scoring six runs or fewer in each contest, and only outscoring foes 46-43 in those 14 games.

Creighton's 45-15 record is tied for the second-best mark after 60 games in program history. The 2005 team was 46-14 after 60 games, while the 2007 team started 45-15 as well. Creighton's 1991 CWS team started 42-18 after 60 games.

The ninth-inning homer by Oregon State's Garrett Nash last night was the first allowed by Creighton pitching since May 6th, when Tyler Grimes from Wichita State homered. Creighton had thrown 165.2 innings, spanning 598 at-bats and 692 plate appearances in between homers surrendered.

Despite yesterday's 5-1 loss to Oregon State, Creighton was not the only team that struggled versus a Pacific-10 Conference team on Saturday. According to Baseball America's Aaron Fitt, Pac-10 teams went 6-0 and outscored opponents 48-9 on Saturday.

Speaking of Aaron Fitt, he also dropped this statistical nugget in a blog item on Saturday. "Since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1999, just 13 of 192 teams (6.8 percent) have lost openers and come back to win regionals. Saturday is important too-82 percent of teams that have started 2-0 have gone on to win regionals."

Creighton has played twice on the same day seven times this season, something it would encounter again if it defeats Georgia. Creighton is 12-2 when playing multiple games in one day, including 2-0 records on Feb. 19, Feb. 26, March 6, March 19 and May 26th and 1-1 records on March 16th and May 25th.

When Creighton and Georgia tangled on Friday, it took Jonas Dufek and Michael Palazzone just 1:46 to throw a 2-1 game that raced by at lightning speed. Somehow, that wasn't even the quickest game this season in a Dufek start. The Creighton senior RHP threw a nine-inning, 1-0 shutout of Valparaiso on March 19 in which he needed just 1:25 to complete.

Trever Adams has reached base safely in 44 straight games. It's Creighton's longest streak since at least 2000. His career. 374 batting average ranks fifth-best in school history and would be the best by a Bluejay since Scott Stahoviak hit .418 from 1989-91.

Trever Adams owns 153 total bases on the season, most by a Bluejay since 1999 (Ryan Gripp and Peyton Lewis). Adams' 153 total bases is tied for 10th-most in school history with Rick Freehling (1991) and Ryan Martindale (1991).

Clay Cuno struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance on Saturday night, but don't be surprised to see him back in the line-up on Sunday. Creighton has won all five starts the senior has made this season, and leads all Bluejays with a .385 batting average and .692 slugging percentage in elimination games this spring.

Mike Gerber's home run vs. Oregon State yesterday was Creighton's first round-tripper since Michael Mutcheson homered vs. Bradley on May 25th in Creighton's first MVC Tournament game, and Creighton's first in NCAA Tournament action since Brett Mieras had an inside-the-park homer in the sixth inning vs. Albany on June 4, 2007. Creighton also hit two homers "over" the fence in that same inning against the Great Danes.

Speaking of Mike Gerber, his home run vs. Oregon State made him the first freshman in Creighton history to homer in an NCAA Tournament game. Earlier this season Gerber entered his name into the trivia books as the first player to homer at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, the new home of the College World Series.

Mike Gerber enters Sunday with a team-best seven-game hitting streak, his longest of the season. In each of those games, Gerber has finished with exactly one hit. Gerber has a hit in 16 of Creighton's last 19 games, during which time he's hitting .308.

Greg Hellhake takes the mound on Sunday for the first time since his best day as a Bluejay, as he threw a complete-game 2-hitter to blank Southern Illinois on May 26th. Creighton has not had a player throw multiple shutouts in the same season since Jonas Dufek in 2009. Maybe more surprisingly, Creighton has not had a player throw complete games in consecutive starts since Steve Grasley did so on April 30  (at UNI) and May 7 (vs. Wichita State) of the 2004 season.

Greg Hellhake has finished his senior year with some of his best work of the year. Before his 94-pitch,t two-hit masterpiece of SIU last week, Hellhake threw 4.1 innings of one-run ball on the last day of the regular-season (May 21) as Creighton clinched outright possession of the MVC regular-season title. Hellhake has allowed four earned runs or less in all 15 appearances this season, and two or fewer earned runs in 10 of those 15 games.

Despite being a fly ball pitcher (90 fly outs, 65 ground outs this year), Greg Hellhake has yet to allow a home run in 2011 in 65.0 innings of work. In his last 27 appearances (which includes 24 starts), he's only allowed a homer in one of those games, as New Orleans tagged him for two dingers on May 22, 2010 on a day with 26 mph winds at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Sunday will mark the 47th start of Greg Hellhake's career, more than any other Bluejay in the eight-year reign of Ed Servais. Hellhake will break a tie he currently holds with Marc Lewis (2004-07), the number one starter on Creighton's last NCAA Tournament qualifier.

Nick Judkins leads all Creighton players with three hits in 2011 NCAA Tournament play, including two last night vs. Oregon State.

If Nick Judkins hits leadoff on Sunday, as head coach Ed Servais hinted after Saturday night's loss, it would mark just the second time all season he's hit leadoff for Creighton. Judkins also hit leadoff on March 6th in Creighton's 6-0 win at Arkansas State. In that contest, Judkins was 1-for-5 and scored twice, while Alex Staehely was 2-for-4 from the two spot in the order that day, his second and final (to date) start in the two hole this year.

Jack VanLeur made the 114th appearance of his career on Saturday night, which ties him with Jaime Bluma (Wichita State, 1991-94) for third-most in MVC history. Jaime's younger brother Marc Bluma (Wichita State, 1996-99) made 115 appearances for second-place, while the Creighton and MVC record is 123 by Oregon native Scott Reese from 2004-07.

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