CINCINNATI, Ohio - The Creighton Baseball Team claimed the first BIG EAST Title in School history with a 7-6 (12) win at Xavier on Saturday, May 16.
The win closed out the regular season for the Bluejays, lifting Creighton to 30-16-1 overall and 14-4 in BIG EAST play. Xavier, meanwhile, fell to 26-26 overall and 8-10 in conference action.
Tied at 5-5 entering the 12th inning, Xavier called on its Thursday starter Scott Klever. The hurler limited Creighton to one run over eight innings on Thursday, but the Bluejays were ready. Junior Jake Peter opened the frame with a four pitch walk. Senior Mike Gerber sent Peter to second with a sacrifice and sophomore Reagan Fowler drew an intentional walk to put runners at first and second. Freshman Daniel Woodrowbattled to a full-count before ripping an RBI single up the middle. One out later fellow freshman Nicky Lopez plated Woodrow with a single up the middle to make it 7-5.
Just after Woodrow delivered the RBI single, senior Bryan Sova asked head coach Ed Servais for the ball in the 12th.
"Right when Woody gave us the lead in the 12th, I went over to coach and told him I wanted to close the game out," said Sova. "He asked if I was able to pitch today, then told me to warm up."
"I wasn't even considering using him, but Sova came to me fairly demonstratively asking for this opportunity," said Servais. "I have a tendency to listen to my seniors in a spot like that."
Sophomore Nick Highberger struck out David Morton to open the 12th, then Servais went to the mound to bring in Sova.
"We wanted to shrink the inning for Sova so we sent Highberger out to get the first out," noted Servais.
Sova, who needed just 83 pitches to toss a complete game in his first career start on Friday, allowed a double and a single to the first two batters he faced, but got a pop out and a fly ball to right to earn his ninth save of the season.
The Musketeers got on the board first with a run in the fifth, but the Bluejays came right back with a run in the sixth. Senior Cody Kottich opened the frame with a double to left field, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Brad McKewon. Kottich scored moments later on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald.
Xavier took the lead once more with two runs in the seventh and held that 3-1 edge into the top of the ninth.
Fitzgerald and Peter opened the ninth with back-to-back walks. Gerber continued the free pass parade to load the bases with nobody out. Fowler came through in the clutch as he has done all season long, smacking a two-run single through the right side to knot the game at 3-3.
Sophomore Joey Mancuso moved Geber and Fowler up 90 feet via a sacrifice, then freshman Nicky Lopez was intentionally walked to load the bases once more. Junior Landon Lucansky singled down the right field line to give Creighton its first lead at 4-3. Xavier pitcher, Sean Campbell, limited the damage with a pop out and a ground ball to end the inning right there.
The Musketeers answered with a run in the bottom of the ninth on three singles and a sacrifice bunt, but sophomore John Oltman sent the game to the tenth by striking out Brian Bruening with runners at the corners.
Creighton claimed the lead for a second time in the 11th on a single by Lopez, a ground from Lucansky that sent Lopez to second and an RBI single by McKewon.
Highberger, who came on to pitch for the Bluejays in the 10th, got the first two hitters in the 11th on four pitches. The Xavier designated hitter, Derek Hasenbeck, however was not ready for the game to end as he blasted a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-center.
Highberger picked up the win (4-0) for the Bluejays, allowing just one run on three hits in 2.1 innings of relief. Klever took the loss (6-5) for Xavier, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks in one inning of work.
The win clinched the overall No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament for the Bluejays. Creighton will at least share the BIG EAST Regular Season Title, pending the outcome of the Seton Hall vs. St. John's game currently in progress.
It'll be Déjà Vu all around at BIG EAST Tournament on May 22 as the top seeded Bluejays will play #4 Xavier (3 pm - CT). The other game will feature #2 St. John's vs. #3 Seton Hall.
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