No. 1 CREIGHTON 5, No. 5 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 0
CU (41-14); SIU (23-34)
OMAHA, Neb. - Greg Hellhake pitched a dominating two-hit shutout against Southern Illinois, retiring the final 16 batters he faced to help the Creighton baseball team stay alive in the State Farm MVC Tournament Thursday afternoon. The fifth-year senior left-hander allowed just two base hits in hurling the first shutout in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha history, as the Bluejays defeated the Salukis 5-0 in an elimination contest.
Hellhake, making his 46th career start, hurled his first career complete game when his team needed it most. The left-hander had not thrown more than 6.2 innings in a game this year and had never thrown more than seven innings in a game, before throwing his 94-pitch gem to improve to 4-4 on the season. The complete game helped preserve the Bluejay bullpen, as Creighton will now return to the diamond in a rematch against Missouri State tonight at 7:30 pm. MSU topped Creighton 10-3 in the fifth game played on Wednesday at the tournament.
Creighton put runners on base in three of the first four innings, but did so with two outs each time, and failed to capitalize on its early chances. The Bluejays stranded two in the first inning following a hit batter and walk, left two on in the third after two-out singles from Nick Judkins and Jimmy Swift, and left one more on base in the fourth before pushing a run across in the fifth.
Chance Ross led off the top of the fifth inning with a single and moved to second when Alex Staehely followed with a walk. Judkins then dropped down his MVC-leading 21st sacrifice bunt of the season to put both runners in scoring position. After Swift flied out to center field for the second out, SIU opted to pitch around Trever Adams to load the bases. But on the second pitch of the intentional walk to Adams, SIU starter Andrew Bever threw wildly and the ball caromed off of SIU catcher Brian Bajer's glove, allowing Ross to score on the wild pitch.
Ross then drove in Creighton's second run of the game with an RBI single in the top of the sixth inning. The two-out hit from Ross scored Clay Cuno after Cuno had reached and advanced to second base when SIU shortstop Jake Welch committed a fielding error and throwing error on the same play.
Cuno, making his first start of the season in just his 10th game played, singled with one in the eighth inning to get a two-run rally started. Cuno was lifted for pinch-runner Michael Blatchford after his 2-for-4 day with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Blatchford moved to third on a single by Mike Gerber and both runners scored when Staehely ripped his team-leading 21st double into the left field corner and the Bluejays owned a 4-0 lead.
Creighton tacked on another run in the ninth inning, as Swift led off the frame with his second triple of the season, over a diving Nick Johnson in right field. Adams was then hit by a pitch and the duo of Swift and Adams executed a double steal, with Swift sliding around the tag of Bajer to score the Jays' fifth run.
After Brock Harding's two-out single in the fourth inning, SIU would not again reach base against Hellhake. The southpaw retired the side in order in the fifth through ninth innings, fittingly getting the final out of the game on a come-backer off the bat of Wes Neece.
Bever (5-6) took the loss for SIU, throwing six innings and allowing the first two SIU runs. He walked four and struck out three in SIU's final game of the season. The Salukis end the season with a 23-34 record.
The Bluejays collected nine hits in the game, with Swift, Cuno and Ross each going 2-for-4 with a run scored in the game. Ross also added an RBI from the ninth slot in the order.
Creighton (41-14) will return to action at the tournament tonight when it faces Missouri State (33-21) in the 7:30 pm game. A win would keep the Bluejays alive in the tournament, while a loss would advance the Bears to Saturday night's championship game. Should the Jays top MSU tonight, they will be back on the field against the Bears on Friday at 4 pm. The 4 pm Thursday game at the tournament pits Wichita State and Indiana State.