OMAHA, Neb. - Turns out staring down the league's home run leader in the eighth inning of a one-run ball game doesn't faze Jonas Dufek.
Dufek retired Cody Fick with two on and two out in the eighth, and Mark Winkelman struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Oesterle with runners on the corners and two down in the ninth for a 3-2 Creighton victory, Friday evening at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Dufek (7-1) scattered five hits and struck out eight over a season-long 8.0 innings to earn his league-best seventh victory. Winkelman earned his first career save by stranding the two runners with two out in the ninth inning.
The first jam the Jays wriggled out of came in the eighth as Eric Stamets singled and Greg Wallace walked to bring Fick to the plate. Fick laced a ball to center, but Joey Bowens gloved the line drive to get out of the jam.
Dufek went out for the ninth, but was relieved after walking Trentt Copeland to start the inning. Winkelman was called in from the pen, and after a sac bunt, a groundout and a walk, Winkelman got Oesterle to wave at a 3-2 offering to end the game.
Stamets dominated the stat sheet for Evansville, stroking three of the team's five hits, including a two-run home run.
Creighton (20-17, 7-9 MVC) never trailed in the contest, as the squad jumped to a 3-0 lead through five innings on the strength of Evansville (23-18, 5-5 MVC) wild pitches.
CU plated two runs in the third to take the first lead, as a Vitale sacrifice fly plated the first run. A Swift single, a walk to Trever Adams and a sac bunt from clean-up hitter T.J. Roemmich set it all up, as the Jays went ahead 1-0
Adams then moved to third on Keegan Dennis' first wild pitch, then scored on his second to make it a 2-0 Creighton advantage.
The Jays plated another run on a wild pitch to go up 3-0 in the sixth. Roemmich tripled with one out and scored on Dennis' third wild one of the game.
That run turned out to be the difference, as the speedy Stamets, who was ranked fourth in the country in stolen bases coming into the week, his power in the sixth, bringing the Aces within one with his third home run of the year.
Alex Acheson tripled off the base of the center field wall with one out and Stamets responded by depositing a 3-2 Dufek offering two rows deep in the left field bleachers.
Those were the games final runs however, as the Jays shut down the Purple Aces from there.
Dennis (2-3) took the loss for Evansville, as he went 6.2 innings, striking out six, but also walking five.
Creighton and Evansville will head back to campus for game two on Saturday. The Jays and Purple Aces will square off at 2 p.m. at the CU Sports Complex.
NOTES: Swift extended his on-base streak to 12 games ... Creighton has won the series opener with Evansville 11 of the last 13 seasons ... The Jays moved to 4-1 when Dufek strikes out the first batter of the game ... Creighton improved to 8-2 in Friday games ... New men's basketball coach Greg McDermott threw out the ceremonial first pitch ... Staehely was hit by his first career pitch in the fourth inning.