Creighton rallies late, knocks off Baseball 8-6 in MVC title game

    Brian Bajer hit .471 with five doubles in the tournament and was named to the MVC All-Tournament Team along with teammates Chris Serritella and Todd Eaton.

    Brian Bajer hit .471 with five doubles in the tournament and was named to the MVC All-Tournament Team along with teammates Chris Serritella and Todd Eaton.
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    May 26, 2012

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    By Scott Gierman 

    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Creighton's bullpen outdueled the SIU bullpen as the Bluejays handed Southern an 8-6 loss and claimed their second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship Saturday night at Hammons Field. Southern entered the tournament as the sixth seed and had swept its way to the title game.

    "I can't fault our club for anything," SIU Coach Ken Henderson said. "We played hard, and we played well. I'm frustrated we lost, but I'm so proud of our kids because of the way we played."

    Creighton took its first lead of the game with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nick Judkins led off with a double. Chance Ross followed with a two-strike ground ball single to third base to put runners at the corners and knock reliever Aaron Snyder out of the game after two-plus innings.

    "We had their three-hole hitter 0-2, and he stuck his rear out and hit it off the end of the bat," Henderson said. "He couldn't have rolled it any better down the line. When those things happen, you just shake your head and say those are things you can't control."

    Anthony Bemboom hit a sacrifice fly off Tyler Dray to score Judkins and cut the SIU lead to 6-5. Scott Thornburg then walked, and Mike Gerber singled home Ross to tie the game at 6-6. After Matt Murphy replaced Dray, Jake Peter hit a two-out single to score Thornburg and Gerber and give Creighton a two-run advantage.

    Creighton relievers Mark Winkelman, Reese McGraw and Kurt Spomer held the lead as they each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Winkelman earned the win, his second of the season. Spomer earned his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

    Dray took the loss for SIU. He was charged with two runs in a third of an inning. He and Murphy both appeared in three of SIU's four tournament games while Todd Eaton threw a scoreless ninth inning to make his fourth appearance for Southern.

    "We knew going in that their bullpen is a little deeper than our bullpen is right now," Henderson said. "We had to go with the same two or three guys every day, and I don't fault our guys. Murphy, Snyder and Dray have done a phenomenal job for us."

    Both teams started their ace on three days rest, but neither one was able to pitch five innings. SIU starter Cody Forsythe lasted four-plus innings. He departed with a 5-2 lead after allowing the first two batters of the fifth inning to reach base. Forsythe was charged with four runs off seven hits.

    "We just couldn't get Cody deep enough into the game," Henderson said. "We were hoping to get six or seven out of Cody that our bullpen could throw up a couple zeros. He gutted it out. He wasn't as sharp as he was earlier in the week, but he gave us everything he had."

    Reliever Aaron Snyder allowed both inherited runners to score. The first run scored when center fielder Rennie Troggio lost a fly ball in the twilight sky.

    "It's just that time of night," Henderson said. "The ball was skied, and he lost it. There were two or three weird plays in the game that didn't go our way."

    Snyder then retired the next three batters in order as Southern held onto a 5-4 lead. Snyder then tossed a perfect sixth inning before leaving with two on and no outs in the seventh.

    SIU was in control early. Jordan Sivertsen led off the top of the second inning with a home run to give SIU a 1-0 lead.

    "It felt good," Sivertsen said. "I was slumping, and I didn't have a good tournament so it felt good to get us on the board and get us a lead."

    The Salukis turned four infield singles and a Brian Bajer double into a three-run rally in the third inning to extend the lead to 4-0.

    "We felt comfortable with the lead," Sivertsen said, "but we knew they'd battle back. We felt we could hold it, it just didn't work out."

    Creighton starter Ty Blach left after three innings. He was on short rest after tossing a complete game shutout on Tuesday morning. Blach allowed four runs off seven hits.

    SIU manufactured a run in the top of the fourth inning when Tanner Renner led off the inning with a bunt single to the right side of the infield and scored on a two-out wild pitch. That extended the lead to 5-1.

    Creighton scored a run in the third and then again in the fourth. Both runs came home on a two-out single up the middle. After four innings, SIU held a 5-2 lead.

    Bajer doubled again to lead off the sixth inning and scored on Tanner Renner's one-out single to bump SIU's lead up to 6-4. Bajer had two doubles in the game and five two-baggers in four games in the tournament.

    Bajer was named to the MVC All-Tournament Team along with Eaton and first baseman Chris Serritella.

    SIU graduates only four seniors and will most likely lose Serritella to the Major League draft next month. With many key pieces returning for 2013, Henderson said he is looking forward to even brighter days for the Saluki baseball program.

    "I truly believe that we're going to look back at this week in Springfield and say that was the turning point in the program," Henderson said. "Our young kids are learning how to win, and the way we played out here is monumental for our program, and it's going to pay dividends for a long time. I'm so proud of them."