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Courtesy: Eric Francis

Baseball Plays for Second Straight MVC Tournament Title

Creighton Baseball -  Updated Game Notes
Creighton (25-28) vs. Southern Illinois (31-27)
Game 4 - Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship
May 26, 2012

Creighton continued its offensive outburst with a 10-3 win over Illinois State in the semifinal game on Thursday, pushing the Bluejays to their second straight MVC Tournament final, the fifth in Ed Servais' nine seasons at the helm of Bluejay baseball.  Creighton has 39 hits in the three games in Springfield, holding a .361 batting average and scoring 26 runs.  Leading the charge offensively is Mike Gerber who is hitting .583 with a .917 slugging percentage in the three starts.  Gerber also has six RBI in the tournament.  The Bluejay pitching staff has a 1.67 ERA in the MVC Tournament, holding opponents to a .196 average against.  Saturday's starter - Ty Blach - threw a one-hit complete game shutout in the tournament opener against Indiana State, and is one of three Jays (Mark Winkelman and Chase Webb) who enter the finals with a flawless 0.00 ERA in tournament play.

The Bluejays start the MVC Tournament 3-0 for the first time since the 2009 season.  Creighton has started the MVC Tournament 3-0 just twice now under Ed Servais, accomplishing it in 2009 and now in 2012.  The Jays started last year 1-1 and had to battle back through the losers bracket to win the schools second MVC Tournament title (also in 2007).

Creighton has won its last seven MVC Tournament games dating to last season. A win on Saturday will make the Bluejays the first club to win eight straight MVC Tournament contests since Wichita State won nine in a row, spanning the 1998-2000 tournaments.

The Bluejays are looking to become the first No. 8 seed to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.  The lowest seed to win the tournament was No. 6 Illinois State in 1994.

A Game Against the Salukis
The Bluejays look to avenge a series sweep from earlier this season, in which the Salukis won the series opener 4-0, before ousting Creighton 7-6 and 6-5 in the final two games of the series.  Creighton holds a 61-57 overall lead against the Salukis, with their last win coming in game two of the MVC Tournament last season, a winner's bracket game (a 5-0 shutout behind Greg Hellhake's complete game).

In the Tournament
Creighton trails Southern Illinois 5-11 in Missouri Valley Conference Tournament games, but has won the last two meetings (5-0 last season behind Greg Hellhake's complete game and 5-1 to open the tournament in 2009).  SIU opened the tournament series winning the first five meetings from 1979-1986.

Welcome Back
Creighton has many members of this years team that made appearances in the 2011 MVC Tournament Championship team.  But Scott Thornburg, Kurt Spomer and Brandon Koenigstein mark the only members of this year's team that were also part of the 2009 team that made it to the MVC Tournament finals.  In the 2009 Championship game, Thornburg was the lone current team member that played, picking up an RBI and a walk.  He spent time as DH in two of the four tournament games that season.  Koenigstein did make a start in the 2009 tournament, throwing a 7.0 inning no-hitter against Wichita State in the second game of the tournament.

Meet Today's Bluejay Starter
Ty Blach now leads the Bluejays in career earned run average, holding a 2.67 ERA through his first three seasons at Creighton.  That is just one-hundredth better than Rick Heiserman's 2.68 career ERA.
* Blach leads the nation with 19 starts this season.  He has tossed 109.1 innings, currently sitting eighth on the Creighton single-season charts for innings in a season.
* Blach owns a 19-11 overall record in his first three seasons at Creighton, good for a .633 winning percentage on the mound. 
* The southpaw has thrown three complete games this season, the lone three for the Bluejays this season.
*  In Blach's last four starts, 26.0 innings, he is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA.  He has surrendered just 10 hits and walked three batters.
*  Blach has allowed zero or one earned run in 12 of his 19 starts this season and 25 of 48 career starts as a Bluejay.
*  Blach became the first Bluejay to throw a one-hitter since Chris Appuhn did on April 27, 2003, against Wichita State.
* Blach did not have a single win in MVC regular season play after finishing 4-1 in the conference in 2011.

While in Springfield
Creighton has now won the opening game all three tournaments they have played in Springfield.  The Jays won the opener in 2004 (also defeating Indiana State) before dropping the next two games, and won the opener in 2007 en route to the programs first MVC Tournament title.  Overall, the Bluejays are 8-3 in tournament games played in Springfield, Mo.

Under Servais
Creighton is now 8-1 in opening round games under Ed Servais and 16-14 all-time in MVC Tournament openers.  The Bluejays hold a 24-13 overall record under Servais in the Valley Tournament.  The Bluejays advance to the MVC Tournament Title game for the fifth time in Servais' nine seasons at Creighton, also advancing tin 2005 (lost 10-3 to Wichita State), 2007 (beat Wichita State 10-9 in 12-innings), 2009 (lost to Wichita State 4-2) and 2011 (beat Wichita State 3-1).
Servais has coached Creighton to its only two MVC Tournament titles in program history.
 - Servais can join some select company with a tournament title on Saturday.  The only other active Valley coach with more than two MVC Tournament titles is Gene Stephenson, who has 17 tourney titles.

Tale of Two Seasons
Chance Ross
and Nick Judkins came into the tournament with the two highest Creighton batting averages, and have been productive through the tournament with a .308 and .462 average, respectively.  The duo also both holds 30 runs batted in this season, although they have come in spurts for the two.  In the first 27 games of the season, Ross had just six runs driven in, exploding for 24 RBI in the last 26 games.  Judkins is nearly the exact opposite, driving in 20 in the first half of the season and 10 in the last 26 games.

Getting Hot at the Right Time
The Bluejays came into the MVC Tournament hitting .239 collectively as a team, flirting with ending the season with a program low batting average (which is just 10 points higher than the program lowest average, .229 set in 1971) but has turned things around drastically.  Creighton is now hitting .247 as a team, spiked by a team .361 average in the three games in Springfield.
Mike Gerber is hitting .583 in the tournament with a .917 slugging percentage.  Brennan Murphy has improved his batting average 20 points in the three games, improving to .242 with his 5-10 tournament.

Pants Up
Baseball is a game of superstitions and the Bluejay baseball team is no different.  The team always wears its pant legs down, but when they came out for the Illinois State game, April 28, every member of the team had their pant legs up.  Since that day, Creighton is 10-7 overall, hitting .273 as a team.  Nick Judkins (.324), Chance Ross (.306) and Brennan Murphy (.302) are all hitting above .300, with Ross picking up a team-leading 19 RBI in the last 17 games.

What's in a Win?
* Creighton is seeking its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance, and fourth under the direction of Ed Servais (also 2005, 2007 and 2011). A title game triumph would secure Creighton's first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since 1999 & 2000.
 *Creighton is seeking to become the first MVC team to win back-to-back tournament titles since Wichita State won in both 2008 & 2009. The last time a school other than WSU won consecutive tournament titles was 1996 & 1997, when Keith Guttin led Missouri State to consecutive crowns.
* With a title game victory, Creighton will have won the MVC Tournament in baseball, men's basketball and men's soccer in the same academic year.  The only other time that happened came in 2006-07, which was also accomplished by Creighton.
* With a title game victory, Creighton will be the only team in MVC history to win the league tournament in men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball in the same spring.

In the Last 10
Creighton has used the same 10 batters in the last 10 games, just switching the order up a tad.  Brennan Murphy leads all batters in that time span with a .400 average.  He has 12 hits and six walks (overall on the season, Murphy has 32 hits and 12 walks - showing his output in the last 10 games has been incredible).
The Bluejays are hitting .298 as a team in the last 10 games with a .384 on-base percentage. 
The Creighton pitching staff holds a combined 3.10 ERA in the last 10 games, with Ty Blach holding a 2-0 mark and flawless 0.00 ERA.  He has not surrendered a run in the 25.0 innings he has pitched in three straight starts, tossing a pair of complete game shutouts and holding opponents to a .110 average against.

Sub-Par?
Both No. 8 Creighton and No. 6 Southern Illinois enter the MVC Tournament Title Game with a below .500 MVC mark in the regular-season.  The only previous MVC Tournament champion with a sub -.500 MVC record in the regular-season was the 1994 Illinois State club that won the title after a sixth-place, 8-12 league finish. In the last 10 years, every MVC Tournament champion has been a top-three seed. The last time that didn't happen was in 2001, when fifth-seeded Northern Iowa (coached by Rick Heller) won its lone title with an improbable 4-0 tournament title run. 

Changing it Up
Head coach Ed Servais really switched the batting order up in the first game of the MVC Tournament.  The Bluejays had used the same lineup in the final nine regular season games before Servais flipped things around in the opener.  And it has paid off.  Nick Judkins is hitting .368 this year while hitting second, while Chance Ross hits .294 with nine RBI in our games in the No. 3 hole.

How About These Numbers
Through three MVC Tournament games, Creighton has only used nine hitters, and every single man has reached base in all three games.  Thanks to 39 hits, 10 hit-by-pitch and nine walks, all nine men to bat have reached at least five times, helping the team to a .457 on-base percentage and .361 batting average. Creighton has out-hit the opposition 39-19 in Springfield this week, outscoring foes 26-8 in those contests­

Take Your Pick
Pick your stat when it comes down to why Creighton's offense has exploded this week. The Jays are hitting .414 vs. left-handed pitching, .422 with runners in scoring position, .424 with runners on base, .368 with two outs and own 14 two-out RBI in its last three wins.

Bases Full of Jays
In Creighton's last 12 games, the Jays are hitting 10-for-20 with the bases loaded. In that same span, Bluejay opponents are 0-for-3 at the plate with the bases loaded. The 12-game stretch has seen CU outscore foes 10-2 in the first two innings of games, and 21-2 in the fifth inning.

Been Here Before
Creighton has used 16 different players to compile its 3-0 record entering Saturday. Thirteen of those men played on last year's team that won the MVC regular-season and tournament title, all but Brennan Murphy, Jake Peter and Shane Liska.

Getting the Leadoff Man On
Creighton had its leadoff hitter reach in three innings on Thursday, with one of those men coming around to score. For the tournament, CU's leadoff man has reached 10 times in26 innings, scoring six times.

Up and Down the Lineup
The bottom of the order did much of Creighton's damage on Thursday vs. Illinois State, as Scott Thornburg tied his career-high with three hits, and Jake Peter had a career-best four hits. It was the first time in Peter's young career he had more than two hits.
In the first two games, the seven and eight spots (which is where Thornburg and Peter were hitting) had combined for just three hits.
Brad McKewon and Nick Judkins have combined for nine hits in the three games in the MVC Tournament as the one and two-hole hitters.

Hit Machines
The Bluejays outhit the Sycamores 10-1 in the first round win on Tuesday and turned around to put up 16 hits (tying a season high) against Illinois State on Wednesday.  The streak continued on Thursday, when Creighton used 13 hits in the 10-3 win to eliminate Illinois State.  It now marks the fifth time in the last six games the Bluejays have picked up double-digit hits in a game.  They have accomplished that feat 19 times this season.
However, Creighton picked up double-digit hits just six times in the 20 MVC regular-season games this 2012 season.

Lights Out Lefties
The Bluejay starting lineup has been mixed between left and right handed batters all season, but Wednesday against the Redbirds the lefties led the way.  Nick Judkins, Anthony Bemboom, Mike Gerber, Jake Peter and Brennan Murphy combined for 12 of Creighton's 16 hits on the day for the Jays.  Overall, the lefties were 12-21 from the plate on Wednesday, with a double, a triple and a home run.
In the tournament, 17 of Creighton's 26 hits have come from batters on the left side of the plate.

More than You
Creighton is 18-4 when out-hitting its opponent this season, and 16-3 when owning 10 hits or more in a game. CU's 16 hits against Illinois State on Wednesday tied a season-high, also done vs. Nebraska (5/8) and vs. North Dakota (3/17).

How's This, For Starters?
Creighton's starting pitching has thrown well in the past 12 games, allowing just 13 earned runs and owning a 1.87 ERA in 62.2 frames of those starts.  CU's starters have allowed no earned runs in six of those contests, and just one run in three other games.

Well-Rested Pen
Creighton's bullpen has thrown just 96 pitches this week in Springfield, with Mark Winkelman the lone reliever to toss more than 1.0 innings this week (finished the win on Thursday with 2.0 innings of work, striking out three and not surrendering a hit). Helping to keep CU's bullpen away has been strong performances by starters Ty Blach, Shane Liska and Erik Mattingly.  All three starters have tied their longest career appearance in their respective tournament starts.

Boom Boom Bemboom
Anthony Bemboom
owns three triples in Creighton's last 12 games, giving him a team-best four three-baggers this season. The last Bluejay with more than four triples in a season was Andrew Small in 2007. It was Small who had the walk-off hit in the 12th inning that helped Creighton claim the 2007 MVC Tournament title at Hammons Field in Springfield.

Playing With A Lead
Creighton is 21-9 this year when scoring first, compared to a 4-19 mark when the opposition scores first. Creighton has drawn first blood in each of its three MVC Tournament games this year, and won its last six Valley Tourney games when scoring first.  The Bluejays scored twice in the first inning of Thursday's win over Illinois State, giving Creighton 37 runs in the opening inning this season.

Captain Long Ball
Mike Gerber
hit the first home run in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha history last year, and is currently leading the Jays with four homers this spring after yesterday's high-arching round-tripper. The last Bluejay sophomore before Gerber to lead CU in round-trippers was Darin Ruf (8) in 2007, the same year the Jays won the MVC Tournament in Springfield.

The Drought is Over
The Bluejays hit a pair of home runs in the 11-5 win over Illinois State on Wednesday, the third time this season they have hit multiple home runs in a single game - also against North Dakota (3/17) and Southern Illinois (4/22).  Mike Gerber hit his team-leading fourth home run in the third inning and Chance Ross drove out a three-run shot in the seventh.
The home runs mark the first for the Bluejays since May 5 when Chance Ross led off the game at Bradley with a solo home run.  Gerber hit his first home run in over a month, as his last one came at SIU (4/22).

Against the Southpaw
Creighton has struggled against the left handed pitchers this season, but seeing them in the first two games of the MVC Tournament you would never guess it.  The Bluejays are now 8-12 against left handed starters this season, putting up 12 combined runs in the first two games of the MVC Tournament against southpaw starting pitchers.

Ed Servais Baseball
Creighton successfully dropped three sacrifice bunts in the win on Wednesday, all three which advanced runners to second base.  All three runners eventually came around to score.  Ed Servais' teams have ranked among the best in the nation in sacrifice bunts since he has been at the helm of Bluejay baseball.  The team has 70 this season, led by Alex Staehely's 11 and Anthony Bemboom's 10.

Shutout History
Entering the 2012 tournament, Creighton had thrown 4 shutouts all-time in MVC Tournament play. Each time CU threw a shutout, it would go on to reach the MVC Tournament championship game.  Ty Blach opened the 2012 tournament with a 5-0 shutout win over No. 1 seed Indiana State.

2005 - CU 6, UE 0 (Wordekemper 5 H in 7 IP, Reese 2 IP)
2007* - CU 2, BU 0 (Moore 2 H in 8 IP, Masten 1 IP)
2009 - Cu 11, WSU 0 (Koenigstein no-hitter)
2011* - CU 5, SIU 0 (Hellhake 2-hitter)
2012 - CU 5, ISU 0 (Blach 1-hitter)
*won tournament title

Creighton became the fourth team in MVC Tournament history in Tuesday's win to allow zero or one hit in a game, joining Southern Illinois (1977), Missouri State (2002) and Creighton (2009). Each of those first three teams played in the MVC Tournament final.

On the Staff
The Creighton pitching staff came into the 2012 season full of expectations and highly touted.  With a number of bullpen arms back as well as starting pitcher Ty Blach, the staff holds a 3.40 combined ERA.  In addition to Blach's complete game, one-hitter against Indiana State yesterday, the staff also has Brandon Koenigstein who threw a no-hitter against Wichita State in 2009 and Erik Mattingly who started the game against Indiana State earlier this season with 9.0 innings of no-hit baseball.

Meet the Players
 * Nick Judkins is 6-for-13 in the MVC Tournament, an improvement that coincided with him returning to the No. 2 spot in the line-up for the first time since April 13th. CU is now 7-2 when he bats second in the order this year, and was 41-15 with him hitting second last year, when he tied a Creighton and MVC record with 22 sacrifice bunts.
* Brennan Murphy has been one of Creighton's top hitters as of late, hitting .461 in his last nine games, reaching safely in each game for a career best.  Murphy also leads the team with six walks in that time span, helping to lead to his five runs scored and .563 on base percentage.
* Murphy is hitting .500 at the MVC Tournament so far, scoring four times.
* Alex Staehely had one sacrifice bunt in each of CU's first two games this week. It was his 35th and 36th career sacrifice bunts, second-most in MVC history behind former Bluejay Vince Pietro.
* Mike Gerber had back-to-back three RBI games in the wins on Wednesday and Thursday, marking the second and third times this season he has driven in three in a single game (also against South Dakota State 4/15).  He leads all Bluejays with 11 multi-RBI games this season.
* The 4-5 day from the plate Wednesday for Mike Gerber also gave him his first four-hit game of his career, as he had previously had three hits in a game four different times, most recently against Nebraska on May 8, 2012.
* Nick Judkins' first-inning single on Thursday gives him a season-high hitting streak of five straight games.  He had previously owned five different four-game hitting streaks this season.

Moving on Up
Creighton is currently hitting .247 as a team, its highest mark since March 25th. The Jays are hitting .304 in their last 11 games with 19 sacrifice bunts and just four double plays in that span.
 
No Muffed Balls
Creighton had played three straight errorless games for the first time all season before an errant throw in the 10-3 win on Thursday.  Creighton had two streaks of error-free baseball last season, putting together four-straight games from April 2-April 8 and then three-straight to close out the MVC Tournament and open NCAA play (May 27-June 3).

RISP
Creighton went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday vs. Illinois State after going 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday vs. Indiana State.  Those six hits match its most hits with RISP since going 6-for-17 vs. North Dakota on March 17th. Creighton is 9-0 this year when it has at least six hits with runners in scoring position, and 19-2 since the start of the 2010 season.

Push them In
After not scoring more than eight runs in any MVC game all year, and never scoring more than 12 runs in any MVC series all year, Creighton's offense exploded for 11 runs on Wednesday.  Creighton improved to 6-0 this year when scoring in double-digits following the 10-3 win on Thursday over Illinois State, and has won 21 straight (since 3/7/10) when scoring in double-figures.  Creighton is now 18-4 when scoring five or more runs this year, and 22-6 when scoring four or more runs this year.

 

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