After scoring three runs in the first inning against Missouri State starter Grant Gordon, the Creighton baseball team was held scoreless for 10 innings by MSU reliever J.C. Casey in the Bracket B Championship Game at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. After 136 pitches the senior right-hander’s day was over and the Bluejays were able to break through and score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Dan Kickham’s wild pitch with two outs in the 12th inning allowed Anthony Bemboom to score the winning run and advance the Bluejays into Saturday night’s title game against Wichita State with a 4-3 win over the Bears.
Creighton (43-14) had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning after Scott Thornburg led off the inning with a single, but the Bluejays could not push across the run and went quietly in order in the 10th and 11th innings, as Casey retired the final eight men he faced in his dominant 10-inning relief outing.
In the 12th inning, Kickham (2-3) relieved Casey and walked Bemboom to lead off the frame. The Bluejay reserve, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, moved to second base when pinch-hitter Joey Bowens executed a sacrifice bunt. Bemboom moved to third on Mike Gerber’s fly out and was there when Kickham uncorked a wild pitch on his 1-1 offering to Chance Ross. Bemboom crossed the plate and was mobbed by his teammates as the Bluejays celebrated their fifth win over Missouri State in the last eight days.
The wild pitch wasted a brilliant performance by Casey, who entered in the second inning and shut down the Bluejay offense, which had knocked around Gordon for three runs on two hits and two walks in the first inning. Casey, who’s previous career-high for innings pitched was seven, hurled 10-innings of shutout baseball for the Bears. The senior right-hander allowed only five hits and just one walk, while he struck out a career-high 11 in the no-decision.
On Thursday night, Missouri State scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning as the home team, and on Friday night the Bluejays scored three in the bottom of the first to take an early lead. After Mark Winkelman retired the Bears on nine pitches in the first inning, Nick Judkins got the Bluejay offense going with a four-pitch, one-out walk and a stolen base. With two outs, Creighton’s leading hitter Trever Adams doubled down the left field line to score Judkins from second base with the first run of the game. Thornburg then worked a full count walk to put two on for Clay Cuno. The Bluejay left-fielder continued his tear through the MVC Tournament, ripping his fourth double in four games at the event to score both runners and give the Jays a 3-0 lead.
The Bears (33-23) dented the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning when Luke Voit’s RBI single scored Kevin Medrano.
The score remained 3-1 in Creighton’s favor until the sixth inning, when pinch-hitter Trey Massenberg blooped a two-run double off the glove of a diving Cuno in left field. The double off of Reese McGraw scored Voit and Spiker Helms who had reached base on a base hit and walk, respectively, earlier in the inning off of Bluejay reliever Jack VanLeur. Massenberg’s first double of the season and first hit since March 16 tied the game 3-3.
In what proved to be the longest game in the young history of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, Missouri State stranded two runners in both the ninth and 10th innings, while the Bluejays wasted a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth and went down in order in the 10th inning.
MSU put runners on base in the 11th and 12th inning on free passes from Creighton’s seventh pitcher of the day, Erik Mattingly. The Bluejay right-hander, making just his third appearance of the year, got out of the 11th with a inning-ending double play. In the 12th inning, Mattingly walked a pair, but worked his way out of the jam by recording his first two strikeouts of the season, fanning Travis McComack and Massenberg in consecutive at bats to end the inning, setting up the dramatic bottom of the 12th.
Winkelman gave the Bluejays a career-long outing, lasting four innings and allowing just one run on three hits in his first start of the season. The sophomore left-hander cruised through three scoreless innings on 26 pitches, before allowing MSU’s first run in the fourth. Nick Musec preceded VanLeur and McGraw out of the pen for the Jays. Chase Webb followed McGraw with 1.1 innings of scoreless work and Kurt Spomer worked out of trouble in the ninth and the 10th innings before giving way to Mattingly.
Mattingly (1-0), a junior from Lakewood, Colo., joined the list of unlikely heroes for the Bluejays in this tournament run, as he doubled his innings total for the season with two innings of work in the win. The right-hander picked up his first decision as a Bluejay, striking out two and not allowing a hit in his third outing of the spring.
Cuno was the only Bluejay to notch more than one hit in the game, finishing 2-for-3 with two doubles. He now has five doubles on the season, all coming in four MVC Tournament games. Medrano paced the MSU offense with a 3-for-4 game.
Creighton will play for its second MVC Tournament championship on Saturday night at 7 pm against Wichita State. The game against the Shockers is a rematch from Creighton’s only other Valley championship win, when the Bluejays topped the Shockers 10-9 in 12-innings in Springfield, Mo. The title game will be televised live on Fox Sports Midwest..