NORMAL, Ill. - The Creighton baseball team opened Missouri Valley Conference play at the reigning regular season and tournament champion Illinois State and the Redbirds took the opener 5-4. Creighton (20-7) didn't score after the fourth inning and the Redbirds (21-7) took advantage of six Bluejay pitching staff walks.
The Jays got on the board first, scoring in the first inning for the first time in five games (going back to the NDSU win). Michael Mutcheson led off the game picking up a single to right field and then was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Nick Judkins. Jimmy Swift then hit a pop-up to the second baseman, 2010 MVC Player of the Year Kevin Tokarski, leaving the Jays with a runner on second and two outs. Adams stood in and knocked in his eighth home run of the season, the second in as many games, driving the two run shot over the right field fence.
Creighton added another run in the top of the second inning. Anthony Bemboom led off the second inning by hitting a ball that the short stop misplayed, allowing him to reach first safely. A Chance Ross infield single on a hit-and-run to the right side allowed Bemboom to move easily to second base. The Creighton catcher then took advantage of a passed ball by the Redbird catcher Matt Mirabal and a walk by Mike Gerber to put runners on first and third. Joey Bowens again used the small game for the Jays, executing a squeeze bunt that gave the Jays the early 3-0 lead.
Ty Blach was again strong on the mound, forcing the first six batters to sit down in order, including a pick-off on the only baserunner in the first two innings (getting Tokarski a little too far off the base at first). Blach did struggle a little in the bottom of the third inning, throwing eight straight balls to put runners on first and second with no outs. A single by the ninth hole batter David Fallon drove in the first run of the day for the Redbirds, scoring Hollenbeck from second.
The Jays again put a run on the board in the top of the fourth inning, when Staehely led off the inning with a single through the left side. Staehely advanced to second on a Bemboom hit back to the pitcher and then was moved to third base and scored on a Ross infield single that was thrown away by the shortstop. Creighton took the 4-1 lead after four innings.
Illinois State put together a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning that forced the Jays to take Blach off the mound after giving up three back-to-back-to-back hits, scoring two runs. A leadoff strike out looking was followed by a single up the middle by Court, a single to right field by McNeely and a two-RBI double to the right center field fence by Amrein to pull the Redbirds within one run at 4-3. Creighton put Chase Webb on the mound, who a strikeout and groundout to end the inning without allowing another run. Blach finished the game with 5.1 innings pitched, giving up three earned runs on five hits while striking out six. Four of the six strike outs were looking.
After three scoreless frames from the Jays through the middle portion of the game, Illinois State took the lead in the bottom of the seventh, after loading the bases on Webb with a walk, a double and then another walk. The Jays brought in Reese McGraw with the bases loaded and one out, with the third batter Ryan Court up to bat for the Redbirds. Court drove a ball off the backhand of Jays second baseman Alex Staehely and up the middle, allowing two runs to score. McGraw walked another batter to load the bases and the Jays brought in Mark Winkelman. The southpaw struck out Zack Amrein swinging and then forced a ground out to end the threat, but the Redbirds had taken the 5-4 lead.
Creighton was held scoreless from the fifth inning on, picking up just two hits in that time, two singles, one by Judkins and one by Swift. In the top of the ninth, Ross led off the inning with a strike out swinging. He was followed by a strike out looking by Gerber and then a ground out to the pitcher by Scott Thornburg.
The Jays finished the day with six hits, leaving five runners on base through the game. Six different Jays picked up a hit in the game, with Adams driving in two, increasing his total to 34 on the season, including 16 in the last six games.
The two teams will play in the second game of the series tomorrow at 2:00 from Duffy Bass Field. Check into www.gocreighton.com for all the latest information on the Creighton baseball team.
Quick Hits: Trever Adams has homered in five of the last eight ball games, including the last two games. He now has a team-leading eight on the season... The meeting with ILS was the fifth time the two teams have opened the Valley series against each other, with the most recent being in 2005... Creighton's loss extended the ILS win streak, improving it to four straight games, as they swept the Jays in Omaha last season... Ed Servais lost his first game when playing in Normal, Ill., as he is now 10-1 in his career when playing in Normal... Alex Staehely's single in the fourth innning marks his first hit against the Redbirds in his career. He went 0-for-12 last season... The Jays put the lead off batter on base in six innings in the game, including five of the first six innings off the Redbirds ace Corey Maines. On the contrary, Ty Blach alowed just two first batters on, one was the leadoff base hit and then a walk in the bottom of the third... The Ty Blach pick off in the bottom of the first inning was just the second pick off all season. Reese McGraw was the only other Jay with a pickoff this season... The Creighton pitching staff walked a tied a season high six batters on the day. The previous high was six at Arkansas State...