OMAHA, Neb. - Junior Darin Ruf hit a 1-0 pitch deep over the wall in straight-away center field to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Creighton baseball team to a 9-8 walk off win over South Dakota State Tuesday afternoon at the CU Sports Complex. Ruf also homered in the first inning, as he finished the game with three hits, three runs scored and three RBIs. Creighton improved to 15-6 with the win, while South Dakota State fell to 5-15 with its eighth straight loss.
Jeremy Hauer (4-1) picked up the win in relief, allowing no runs over the final two innings. Third baseman Steve Winkelmann added a first inning home run and shortstop Elliot Soto recorded a career-high three hits for the Bluejays.
The Bluejays let an early five-run lead slip away and had to battle from a run down to force extra innings. CU relievers Bob Lackovic, Pat Venditte, Kevin Dooley and Hauer held the Jackrabbits scoreless over the final six innings to allow for the comeback victory.
Ruf got things going for the Bluejays in the bottom of the first, as he hit a line drive home run to the opposite field to score Soto and put CU on top 2-0. The next batter, Winkelmann, took the first pitch he saw the opposite way for back-to-back homers as Creighton took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to right field. After second baseman Vicente Cafaro was hit by a pitch, left fielder Joe Servais blooped a well-placed ball down the right field line for a run-scoring double. Servais eventually came around to score on a wild pitch to give the Jays a 5-0 lead after the first inning.
Both teams exchanged a run in the third inning, as SDSU got on the scoreboard with a solo homer to right field by Tyson Fisher. The Jays responded as designated hitter Ian Dike doubled down the right field line to score Servais, who ripped a two-out single.
The Jackrabbits then got to Bluejay pitching in the fourth inning, as SDSU evened the score at 6-6 with a five-run frame. A leadoff homer by Tony Martin and a hit batter marked the end of CU starter Greg Hellhake’s day. Junior Josh Gow entered and was roughed up for three hits and three runs, as he did not retire a batter. Sophomore Bob Lackovic came in and allowed consecutive singles, but induced a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning with the score even at 6-all.
Creighton re-took the lead in the bottom of the fourth, as Ruf was hit by a pitch and later scored on a two-out RBI single by right fielder Nick Nordgren. The lead was short-lived however, as SDSU scored two in the top of the fifth to take its first lead of the game. An RBI single by Blair, Neb., native Korby Mintken put the Jacks ahead 7-6.
The Bluejays would not go down easily, as CU plated a run in the bottom of the seventh to knot the score at 7-7. Nordgren led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Servais and then scored on a double by catcher Brett Mieras. Mieras was left stranded at third base, however, and the game went scoreless into the deciding 11th inning.
SDSU got leadoff hits in both the ninth and 10th innings and had a runner in scoring position in the 11th, but could not get the big hit to take the lead. CU never seriously threatened in the ninth or 10th, but the second pitch of the 11th to Ruf was the last of the game. The tape measure shot gave the Jays their first walk-off victory since their MVC Tournament Championship win over Wichita State in 11 innings last May.
Hauer, Dooley and Venditte were especially impressive in their relief appearances. Venditte struck out all three batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings. Dooley then came in and allowed only two hits in 2.1 innings of scoreless work, fanning two in the outing. The winner Hauer also struck out two in his two innings. Hellhake allowed three runs on two hits in three-plus innings.
Kirby Morsching (0-3) took the loss for the Jacks, allowing only the Ruf home run in his 3.1 innings of relief. Starter Jared Koch allowed seven runs on 10 hits, but left in line for the victory before Zach Weber allowed the tying run in the seventh inning.
Creighton travels to Manhattan, Kan., Wednesday to take on Kansas State at 6:30 p.m. at Tointon Field. The game will mark the first broadcast on KOZN (1620 AM) in Omaha and the contest will also be aired in Kansas on FSN Midwest. GAME NOTES: Creighton has hit back-to-back homers twice this season, both coming on consecutive pitches ... Winkelmann and Nordgren homered on consecutive pitches at #6 Rice on March 9 ... With his seventh hit by pitch of the season in the 10th inning, Robbie Knight moved within three of tying the CU career record of 45 ... T.J. Roemmich was a late scratch as the starting pitcher after an injury in pre-game warm ups ... Ruf became the first Jay to have a multi-homer game this season and is the first since Andy Masten and Chad Ogden each homered twice against Indiana State last season.