Baseball Takes on Illinois State Wednesday in Winners Bracket Game

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Ed Servais
Courtesy: Eric Francis

Creighton Baseball -  Updated Game Notes
Creighton (23-28) vs. Illinois State (32-17)
Game 2 - Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
May 23, 2012

Creighton advances to the Bracket A winners game of the of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament following a 5-0 win over No. 1 Indiana State in the opening round of the tournament.  Bluejay pitcher Ty Blach threw a complete game, one-hitter in the win, just the second complete game one-hitter in MVC Tournament history.

The Bluejays become the first No. 8 seed to upend the No. 1 seed since the Valley expanded the tournament format to include all eight teams.  It is just the fourth time in the Valley the lowest seed has upended the top team in the opening round.

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.

Last Time Against the Redbirds
Creighton and Illinois State split the two games of a double header earlier this season, forced to play the two games on Saturday after Friday night was rained out and Sunday was canceled due to weather conditions.  The Bluejays won the opener 6-5 in 15-innings, using a Nick Judkins RBI single in the top of the 15th inning.  The game featured a pair of unlikely heroes, as Michael Blatchford started the frame with a single and hobbled down the line (picking up his first pinch hit since having meniscus surgery) and then put in Sunday starting pitcher Shane Liska to run the bases.  Liska eventually scored on Judkins single.

In game two, the Redbirds put together 12 hits and scored a pair of runs in the first two innings off Bluejay starter Erik Mattingly to take the early lead.  Creighton evened the game 2-2 in the third and fourth innings, before putting up five more runs off the Bluejay bullpen.  Today's starting pitcher for the Redbirds, Dylan Craig, threw a complete game in the 7-2 win for ISU.

The Series
    Creighton holds a 69-34 overall lead in the 113 games between the two teams.  The two teams have played 29 one-run games, with Creighton holding a 16-13 edge.  Two of the three games played last season were decided by one run in addition to the 15-inning win earlier this season.
    Head coach Ed Servais holds a 19-7 overall record against the Redbirds, including a 7-5 mark in Omaha. 

Meet Today's Bluejay Starter
 * Shane Liska has not allowed a hit in the first inning of any of his six starts this season. He's allowed only two runs in 20 innings of work over the first three innings of games this year (0.90 ERA).

Shane Liska did not pitch against Illinois State this season, as the series finale was rained out on April  29th. However, he did still appear in the series, scoring the winning run in the 15th inning as a pinch-runner on Chance Ross' walk-off single to end the longest game in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha history.

Against Dylan Craig:
Illinois State is planning to send freshman left hander Dylan Craig to the mound in the winners bracket game against Creighton on Wednesday.  Craig handled the Bluejay batters in the first meeting between the two schools, the 7-2 Redbird win.  Craig threw a complete game four-hitter, allowing two earned runs while striking out four batters.  Both Bluejay runs, one in the third and one in the fourth, came on two-out rallies, with no single Bluejay picking up multiple hits in the game.

Four different Bluejay pitchers threw flawless innings in the first meetings earlier this year, with three of the four pitchers tossing more than 2.0 innings.  Leading the way is Kurt Spomer, who threw the final 3.0 innings in the 15-inning win, not surrendering a hit and striking out one batter.  Reese McGraw (2.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts), Chase Webb (2.0 scoreless innings with just two hits surrendered) and Andrew Urban (0.2 scoreless innings with one hit surrendered) make up the final three.

In the Tournament
Illinois State and Creighton have not met in postseason play under Ed Servais, with the last MVC Tournament meeting between the two teams coming in 1999.  The Bluejays have won six of the seven meetings between the two teams in the tournament, including the most recent 10-inning, 3-2 win in an elimination game in 1999.  The Bluejays have outscored Illinois State 64-27 in the seven tournament meetings between the two teams, with four one-run games (CU leads 3-1 in those).

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 22-13 overall record under Servais in the Valley Tournament.  With the Bluejay win in the opener, the Jays are guaranteed not to go 0-2 in the tournament.  Creighton has never gone two and out in the MVC Tournament under Servais.

Hit Machines
The Bluejays outhit the Sycamores 10-1 in the first round win on Tuesday, marking the third time in the last four games the Bluejays have picked up double-digit hits in a game.  They have accomplished that feat 17 times this season.

Push them In
Creighton pushed across five runs against Indiana State in the opening game of the tournament yesterday, the 20 th time this season they have scored at least five runs in a game (Jays are 16-4 when scoring five or more runs in a single game).  The Bluejays did strand nine runners on base, while Indiana State stranded just three (the lone three base runners to reach). 
On the season, Creighton has stranded 403 runners, while forcing opponents to strand 372.

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.

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)
*won tournament title

Creighton became the fourth team in MVC Tournament history 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
* Chance Ross tied a career-high with 3 hits yesterday, pushing his hitting streak to 9. He's now hitting .295 this year, his highest mark since March 23rd. Ross is hitting .378 during his hitting streak with eight RBI, driving in three in the win yesterday against Indiana State.

 * Brad McKewon has a 10-game hitting streak entering Wednesday, CU's longest hitting streak of the season by any player. McKewon is hitting .368 during his hitting streak, going 14-for-38.  The last player to put together a streak of longer than 10-games was Trever Adams, with his 18-game streak last season.

 * Nick Judkins went 1-for-4 yesterday while hitting in the No. 2 spot in the line-up for the first time since April 13th. CU is now 5-2 when he bats second in the order.  Judkins spent a majority of the year last season in the No. 2 spot in the line-up, setting a Creighton and MVC record with 22 sacrifice bunts.
* Brennan Murphy has been one of Creighton's top hitters as of late, hitting .333 with four runs scored and four runs driven in.  He has reached base safely in seven straight games, his career-high.  Murphy finished yesterday 2-3 from the plate.
* Alex Staehely had a sacrifice bunt in the 5th inning to set up CU's first run of the game yesterday. It was his 35th career sacrifice bunt, second-most in MVC history behind former Bluejay Vince Pietro. 

Creighton is currently hitting .240 as a team, its highest mark since April 6th. The Jays are hitting .288 in their last 10 games with 16 sacrifice bunts and just three double plays in that span.

Creighton owns a 2.80 ERA in its last 10 games, outscoring teams 43-31 in those contests. CU's 3.40 ERA is better than the team's 3.47 ERA after 51 games a season ago, at which point the Jays were a sparkling 38-13.

Creighton has played back-to-back errorless games for the third time all season, and first time since March 31 & April 1 vs. Evansville. 

Creighton went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position, its most hits with RISP since going 6-for-17 vs. North Dakota on March 17th. Creighton is 8-0 this year when it has at least six hits with runners in scoring position, and 18-2 since the start of the 2010 season.

A Little More From Yesterday
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.

*  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.

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